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Professor weighs in on threats to Russia ahead of Olympics

By Meghan Packer, Reporter, MPacker@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 20 2014 04:14:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 20 2014 05:15:24 PM CST

After a newly-surfaced video threatened an attack at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, many eyes are on President Vladimir Putin to see how he reacts and prepares his country.

After a newly-surfaced video threatened an attack at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, many eyes are on President Vladimir Putin to see how he reacts and prepares his country.

The United States will have warships and planes on standby to evacuate Americans if there is an attack at the Olympics.

"If you're going to have an Olympics in really the most troublesome part of the world, Sochi's it," said Andrew Essig, a political science professor at DeSales University, who also runs a national security program at the school.

"Our president is not going. Our first lady is not going. The Russian government is not really surprised about that, but that does send a message that there are security concerns," said Essig. "You have separatist groups all over the place, as well as radical, fundamentalist groups in the Northern Caucasus, and they're literally only a few hours drive away from Sochi."

"One thing that the Russians are concerned about are what they call black widows. These are women, usually that's not your standard terrorist organization, but they're now utilizing women as, in a sense, suicide bombers," he added.

Essig said Russia has increased police and military forces ahead of the games.

"It is a fine balancing act that President Putin has to play. You want that police presence, you want them to be seen, but at the same time it becomes so stifling that both the athletes as well as the tourists are going to haveĀ  a very difficult time just enjoying the games themselves," he said. "I'm not sure what more he really can do outside of full military invasion of the Northern Caucasus.

Putin has said the games will be safe, but Essig said he questions why the region was selected to host the Olympics in the first place.

"I would sometimes have to raise questions about why the Winter Olympics organization selected Sochi. I would almost joke and say you might as well put it in Kabul," he said. "Don't be surprised if sometime during the two weeks of the Olympics something happens."