The XXII Olympic Winter Games begins on 07 February 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Sochi is located “in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, located on the Black Sea coast near the border between Georgia/Abkhazia and Russia. The Greater Sochi area, which includes territories and localities subordinated to Sochi proper, has a total area of 3,526 square kilometers (1,361 sq mi) and sprawls for 145 kilometers (90 mi) along the shores of the Black Sea near the Caucasus Mountains. The area of the city proper is 176.77 square kilometers (68.25 sq mi). According to the 2010 Census, the city had a permanent population of 343,334, up from 328,809 recorded in the 2002 Census, making it Russia's largest resort city. It is one of the very few places in Russia with a subtropical climate, with warm to hot summers and mild winters.” (Wikimedia Foundation)
Violence that is occurring in the Ukraine has the potential to spill over into the Olympic games and does have the potential to put participants and spectators at risk, for example “Two weeks before the Winter Olympics, Russian security forces are reportedly searching for potential suicide bombers, at least one of whom may already be in the host city of Sochi.” (Flintoff) Intelligence officials are uncertain as to the whereabouts of these individuals and there is a potential that they have already made their way to Sochi and are waiting for the start of the games to perpetrate terrorist actions.
“The suspects are thought to be linked to Islamist militants who are fighting to throw off Russian control and create a fundamentalist Muslim state in Russia's North Caucasus Mountains.” (Flintoff) These individuals have been connected to fundamentalist groups operating in the Caucasus region of Russia. Armed conflicts have been occurring in the Caucasus region of Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This conflict was ethnic in nature based around the fact that the Chechen residents of the area are seeking a free and independent homeland.
“The challenge of ethnic nationalism has been most evident in Chechnya where two bloody wars caused tens of thousands of deaths. During the early 1990s, separatists sought full independence for their republic, but the failure of their state-building project and the ruthless manner in which Moscow fought transformed the nationalist cause into an Islamist one, with a jihadi component. Chechen fighters began to use terrorism widely, and the state responded with massive, indiscriminate force. After 2003, it adopted a policy of Chechenisation, transferring significant political, administrative and security functions to ethnic Chechens. Today the republic has gone through a major reconstruction, and its head, Ramzan Kadyrov, wields virtually unlimited power. Governance and rule of law remain major concerns, but human loss is significantly reduced. The effects of the ongoing insurgency continue to be felt across the North Caucasus, where it has spurred mobilization around fundamentalist Islam.” (The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (I), Ethnicity and Conflict)
Russia seeks to maintain control of this area in order to bring stability to the region, as it seems that the Caucuses, in general, and Chechnya, in specific, are unable to maintain stability on their own without outside influence (this is the same type of situation that is occurring in Afghanistan).
“The situation is somewhat better in the rest of the Caucasus but the trends are similar. While the media likes to play up "terrorism in Chechnya," the main problem is that the Chechens (and their fellow Caucasians) have always been difficult to rule, much less control. This "Chechen Problem" has been on Russia's agenda since the 18th century, and nothing has really worked. Even Stalin deporting most of the Chechen population to Central Asia during World War II (when it was feared the approaching Nazis would find welcome allies among the Chechens) didn't fix the problem. This merely gave Chechens opportunities (usually criminal) throughout Russia. Many Chechens illegally moved to other parts of Russia, where they remain an unwelcome presence. In the 1950s the Chechens in Central Asia were allowed to return to Chechnya, where they did not get along with the Russians, and others, who replaced them after the removal. Chechnya is not a new problem; it's an old one that won't go away. What is going away is the non-native population of the Caucasus, which makes it even more difficult to keep the peace in the region. While the Russian government still insists on maintaining control of Chechnya and the rest of the Caucasus, most Russians have given up on that idea.” (The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (I), Ethnicity and Conflict)
These conflicts has also become a European breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalists that are individuals that are drawn to the fundamentalist (jihadi cause) and are European ethnic descent meaning that they are ethnically similar to those of European descent and will be more familiar with Western Culture than their Middle Eastern Counter parts. As such the conflict in the Caucuses has become a new fundamentalist breeding ground in mainland Europe.
Unlike the traditional terrorist or insurgent the individuals that are possibly seeking to engage in terrorist actions in Sochi are known as Black Widows. “The term "black widow" refers to the belief that these women took the desperate step of becoming suicide bombers in order to avenge husbands or male relatives killed in Russia's long fight against Islamic militants in the Caucasus region.” (Heintz) These individuals run counter to the traditional profile of the insurgent being as they are female and the traditional insurgent is believed to be male. These individuals also have the potential to cause more damage/violence as females do not receive the same sort of security scrutiny that potential male insurgents receive.
Security at major sporting events is always a challenge and important due to the fact that these large gatherings have the potential to be prime targets of insurgent violence. The upcoming winter Olympics is no different. Russia authorities, “are relying on a show of force at the Games, deploying 40,000 heavily armed police and other security officials to the area, the security risks are regarded as unusually high compared with past Olympics” (Goldman) In an attempt to maintain security at the Olympic games the Russian government is utilizing the military and security forces to protect the games. In addition to this, “As a result, U.S. officials said Friday they are prepared to work with Russian security officials to help protect American athletes and the 10,000 American spectators expected to attend.” (Goldman) The FBI and United States military are also standing by to assist Russian forces and security to maintain protection in and around the Olympic games.
It is believed that primary violence may come from the “Caucasian republic of Dagestan in southern Russia is one of the most unstable areas in the country. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, several Russian republics sought to establish independence -- Dagestan was among them. Militants operating there are linked to al Qaeda, and often look to draw young people into their ranks.” (Goldman) While it is believed that potential violence at the Olympics may come from the Caucasian region of Russia, the violence that is occurring in the Ukraine cannot be discounted as potential for violence and/or a threat to Olympic security.
Violence in the Ukraine:
Violent clashes have been occurring in the Ukraine between protesters and local law enforcement authorities, these clashes have been occurring since December 2013 but have been becoming more violent. “The Ukrainian capital has been gripped by weeks of anti-government protests which have seen violent clashes between rioters and police. Unrest is also spreading beyond Kiev as the opposition and government struggle to end the crisis.” (Ukraine unrest timeline - RT News) As of 26 January 2014 violence was again on the rise. “New violence erupted in Ukraine's capital during the night as a large crowd attacked a government exposition and conference hall where police were stationed inside. Early Sunday, demonstrators were throwing firebombs into the Ukrainian House building and setting off fireworks, and police responded with tear gas. Although the crowd created a corridor at the building's entrance apparently for police to leave, none were seen coming out.” (Heintz & Danilova) What this could mean for the Olympics is that protesters in the Ukraine and feel as if their grievances are not being heard or taken seriously by the Russian government may make an attempt to cause violence at the Olympics so as to bring attention to issues at hand.
Violence in the Ukraine would also seem to be taking the same sort of approach that has been taken in the Caucasus region of Russia “The outburst underlined a growing inclination for radical actions in the protest movement that has gripped Kiev for two months. The building under attack is about 250 yards down the street from Independence Square, where mostly peaceful demonstrations have been held around the clock since early December and where protesters have set up an extensive tent camp.” (Heintz & Danilova) These protests are taking place so that the Ukraine can gain independence from Russia. “The protests began in Kiev after Yanukovych (The Ukrainian President) shelved a long-awaited trade pact with the European Union in favor of securing a bailout loan from Russia, and boiled over into violence a week ago over the new anti-protest laws.” (Heintz & Danilova) This trade pact between the Ukraine and the EU could have long lasting and long reaching potential that would allow for the Ukrainian entry into the EU which would have a large economic and political impact on the Ukraine as it would become a member of a unified Europe. However “Russian President Vladimir Putin has pressed hard to keep Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, in his nations political and economic orbit, but more Ukrainians favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU than a new alliance with Russia.” (Heintz & Danilova) Again this is indicating that the Russians are attempting to hold onto the former Soviet republics this is most likely being done in an attempt to appear that the current Russian government will continue to appear powerful on the international stage, while former republics are now seeking freedom from the hegemony of the Soviet Union/Russia. These cases have led to violence.
Violence is the Ukraine and in the Caucuses is based around these areas seeking freedom from Russia; the Russian government is attempting to hold onto what little power that it has left and therefore won’t allow former republics to enter into any other sort of economic, security or political organizations.
The Caucuses region have attracted former Muslim fundamentalists to the region to fight on the side of independence, given that the Ukraine is experiencing the same sort of issue with the Russian government it may be possible that all of these protesters/insurgents will gather together and utilize violence at the Olympics as an example of the lengths they are willing to go to obtain freedom from Russia.
Also, any violence that may occur at the Olympics will give insurgents a much wider audience.
Based on all of this, potential violence at the Olympics is high.
Flintoff, Corey. "Russians Fear A Sochi Legacy Of 'Black Widows,' Not Gold Medals." NPR. http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/01/24/265433423/russians-fear-a-sochi-legacy-of-black-widows-not-gold-medals (accessed January 28, 2014).
Goldman, Adam. "FBI efforts to assist Sochi Olympics limited by Russians." Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-efforts-to-assist-sochi-olympics-limited-by-russians/2014/01/24/7c17c6fe-8370-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html (accessed January 27, 2014).
Heintz, Jim , and Maria Danilova. "Firebombs hurled as Ukrainian protests take violent turn." NBC News. http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/25/22445394-firebombs-hurled-as-ukrainian-protests-take-violent-turn (accessed January 26, 2014).
Heintz, Jim. "'Black Widows' Tied to Decade of Terror in Russia." ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/black-widows-tied-decade-terror-russia-21609215 (accessed January 28, 2014).
Wikimedia Foundation. "Sochi." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sochi (accessed January 25, 2014).
"The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (I), Ethnicity and Conflict." International Crisis Group. http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/europe/north-caucasus/220-the-north-caucasus-the-challenges-of-integration-i-ethnicity-and-conflict.aspx (accessed January 28, 2014).
"Ukraine unrest timeline - RT News." Ukraine unrest timeline - RT News. http://rt.com/news/kiev-protest-clashes-updates-862/ (accessed January 28, 2014).