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Russia rocked by terrorism before Sochi games

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Rocked by the second suicide bombing in two days killing at least 32 and injuring scores more, 49-year-old Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov continues to make good on his promise to sabotage the Sochi Winter Olympics Games beginning Feb. 7, 2014. After a Chechen female suicide bomber detonated her suicide vest packed with shrapnel killing 17 at Volgograd’s train station Dec. 29, another bomber struck the next day during morning rush hour in a crowded commuter train, killing 15 more. Only 400 miles south of Sochi, the twin blasts show that Umarov plans to make good on his promise to disrupt the games. Calling on Islamic terrorists to “do their utmost to derail” the Sochi Olympics, Umarov called the games “dancing on the bones of our ancestors,” referring to Russia’s 90-year control over its Caucasus region in Southern Russia bordering the Caspian Sea.

Detonating two pressure cooker bombs loaded with shrapnel April 15, 2013 at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Chechen-born Tsarnaev brothers slipped through the cracks in U.S. national security, killing three and injuring more than 250. While there’s no link between the Boston and Volgograd bombings, they are joined by Islamic extremism spreading through Russia’s Caucasus region like the bubonic plague. Recognizing the PR nightmare before the Sochi Games, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for tightened security but knows the slippery nature of Islamic terrorism. When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan in 1979, they fought a bloody 10-year guerrilla war against Islamic terrorists, killing more that 15,000 Russian troops. After bleading Russia for nine years, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down Nov. 9, 1989. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.

With all the hubbub about U.S. spying operations from National Security Agency thief Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama should offer Putin U.S. counter-terrorism assistance. When Putin granted Snowden temporary asylum in Russia Aug. 1, it was a backlash against Obama’s decision to support Syrian rebels against Bashar al-Assad. Fighting terrorists is the perfect inroad for the U.S. and Russia to find common ground, not petty disputes over Syria. Putin’s experience with Islamic terrorists in the Caucasus region tells him that al-Assad is preferable to more Islamic regimes. Hitting Volgograd in busy markets or public transportation sows fear into prospective visitors to the Sochi Olympics. When Palestinian Black September struck Munich Olympics Sept. 5, 1972, killing 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team, Islamic extremism hit world scene.

Blaming Mideast politics has been a favorite smokescreen of Osama bin Laden or other Islamic terrorists. While it was easy to blame regional politics in 1972, it’s obvious that Islamic Extremism threatens the Mideast and former Soviet states in the Southern Russia Caucasus region. After Chechen terrorists hit the Boston Marathon April 15, 2013 after unheeded warnings from Russia, it’s time for the U.S. and Russia to find more common ground. U.S. predator drones would be invaluable in helping Russia stamp out the festering plague that’s claimed over 32 lives in 24 hours, threatening the Sochi Winter Olympics. “I think the Russian government has something to fear and that is the potential loss of face, the potential embarrassment to them if this terrorist syndicate is able to pull off one more major terrorist events,” said Christopher Swift, professor of national security at Georgetown University.

Watching he twin-blasts in Volgograd, the White House has the perfect chance to mend fences with Moscow. With the flap over Snowden a useless setback, it’s time to help Russia secure Sochi to whatever extent possible. Whatever mistakes the U.S. made in Afghanistan in the ‘80s, it’s now time to show Russia more support in their battle against Islamic extremism. “With these kinds of operations, it’s not the size of the operation that matters—it’s the willingness of people executing the operation to target civilians,” said Swift, referring to the difficult task Russian has between now and the Sochi Olympics. In the years since Sept. 11, the U.S. has learned a lot about preventing terrorism, something more difficult with Russia’s breakaway Caucasus republics. U.S. CIA and Special Forces counter-terrorism operations could greatly assist Putin in stopping Umarov’s terrorist war.

Russian security officials have a gargantuan task of preventing more terrorism at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Lending U.S. counter-terrorism capability—especially the predator drone program—would go along way in protecting Sochi against more possible terror attacks. With some minor glitches since Sept. 11, U.S. officials have done a good job of intercepting terrorist plots before they create widespread mayhem. Redoubling efforts to get Umarov would help Russia secure the Sochi games but, more importantly, repair damaged U.S.-Russian relations. Putin knows that had Snowden worked for Russian Federal Security Services [formerly the KGB], he’d be six-feet-under or sitting in a Siberian prison. Helping Russia secure the Sochi Games would be best diplomacy to redeem past U.S. mistakes, like past U.S. Afghanistan policy, paving the way for better U.S.-Russia cooperation.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.

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