Is there a need for US warships near Sochi?

51995sochi1Two U.S. warships whose task is to provide assistance to the Russian Federation in case of emergency during the Winter Olympics in Sochi have arrived in the Black Sea region, the Pentagon reported. The security situation around the Games is much discussed in the West, and a new rally on the Maidan is planned for the opening day. Why the U.S. destroyers?

Over the weekend a video emerged on YouTube where two men who introduced themselves as Suleiman and Abdurahman declared that radical Iraqi (?) Islamist group «Ansar al-Sunna» took the responsibility for the bombings in Volgograd. They threatened with new attacks in Sochi during the Winter Olympics and said that they have prepared a surprise for the Russians for the Olympic Games.

Immediately after that, two key U.S. lawmakers on security expressed their concern about the security situation in Sochi. A senator from Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee Angus King, said that he would not go to the Games and would not let his family go. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers called on the Russian government to be more agreeable with the United States in terms of sharing the means to ensure security at the Olympics. Rogers told CNN that the level of concern for Russia remained significant, but he felt that the U.S. was not given all the information needed to protect the athletes at the Games and take all required measures.

Unlike the current establishment, former security officials are not that adamant. A former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden told CNN that he trusted the ability of Russia to ensure the safety of the Olympic Games. He said that he believed that the Americans would be completely safe. Nevertheless, the official Washington insists that Russia should accept military assistance.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that two American warships would be ready in the Black Sea, and transport aircraft would be waiting in Germany in the event of an emergency during the Olympics in Sochi. Kirby stated that if in the course of consultations with the Russian government the support in case of any emergency is required, the U.S. would use the air and naval forces, including the two ships to be sent to the Black Sea. Kirby acknowledged that such an operation would require permission from the Russian side.

«The Black Sea is used for international shipping,» commented on the intentions of the Americans for Pravda.Ru Igor Kasatonov, an admiral, a State Duma deputy from the Communist Party. «There is a special regime of movement through the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles for warships agreed upon with the Turkish government. However, there is no ban on movement of ships of third countries, the admiral said. «As for the American ships in question, there is no need for them. We have enough of our own forces there to solve the problems of security at the Olympics. If the Russian defense ministry authorizes their presence in the long-range maritime area for support, goodwill is always welcome. But I want to reiterate that this is not necessary.»

The question arises whether the action is timed to other events, for example, in Ukraine where a new rally on the Maidan is planned for the opening of the Olympics. Some think that new provocations could force President Yanukovych appeal to President Putin for help. For example, Chief Editor of The Political Class journal, the Dean of the Graduate School of Television at MSU Vitaly Tretyakov said: «I do not rule out that among other things the goal of the events in Kiev is the desire to bring closer a decisive bloody battle on the Maidan and the Sochi Olympics, its opening, and thereby put Putin in a hopeless situation. The Olympics is the main event at the moment, and the situation in Kiev is rather scary. The Russian President responsible for such a significant event cannot act tough at the request of Yanukovych. This reminds me of the events during the Beijing Olympics. Precisely at the moment of its opening Saakashvili launched an attack on South Ossetia. I think something similar is planned here,» Vitaly Tretyakov told Pravda.Ru.

It is very likely that the U.S. destroyers have arrived to hedge the situation. «Our American partners always have double and even triple meaning, therefore another context for the presence of the ships in the Black Sea may be true. If we needed help, we could ask Turkey, it is much closer and has modern fleet. It is easy to negotiate with it since we have a common border and common interests. What comes from across the ocean is ambiguous, and it may have various side effects for some processes,» said Admiral Igor Kasatonov.

«All these events (a video of Iraqi extremists, statements by senior U.S. officials and senators, ships, the Maidan) is certainly connected,» told the director of the International Institute of the Newest Sates, political analyst Alexei Martynov. «The closer is the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the more people do not like that such a massive peaceful event takes place in Russia, and they will try to escalate the situation. We are able to provide security independently, we have taken unprecedented measures not only in the Caucasus region but all over the country,» said the expert.

Lyuba Lulko