Because the alleged Boston bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were of Chechen descent and from the Russian Caucasus, an area that’s been a bastion of support for al Qaeda, experts are concerned about the potential dangers of the 2014 Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia, which borders the North Caucasus region.
Ariel Cohen, a Russia expert at the Heritage Foundation, said, “The attack on the Boston Marathon may be a ringer for Sochi Olympics, which are next door to strife-ridden North Caucasus. It is a combination of luck and good security work that no such events were attacked so far. However, now all bets are off.” Cohen told Congress in February:
Over the last two decades al Qaeda and its funders and affiliates have committed considerable resources to foster terrorism and instability from the Black Sea to the Fergana Valley and the Pamir Mountains. They do so as they sense a strategic opportunity to reach out and radicalize Muslims who in many cases have little to no access to moderate but credible Islam. Islamist terrorists from the self-proclaimed Caucasus Emirate have already attacked the energy infrastructure, trains, planes, theaters, and hospitals. They are increasingly spreading beyond the region and are involved in terrorist activities in Western Europe and Central Asia, including Afghanistan. The North Caucasus Islamist insurgency is part of the global radical Islamist movement, which is deeply and implacably inimical to the West and the United States.
Leon Aron, the American Enterprise Institute’s top Russia analyst, agreed, saying there is more and more “internationalization of these local conflicts because the participants are being radicalized to become part of a militant, fundamentalist” movement that can launch attacks across the globe, said “It can happen anywhere.”
Likely targets include teams from America and Israel. As Aron said:
Many national teams, certainly including Israel or the U.S. are going to insist on some preventative security measures. Given the Boston [bombings] and the proximity to the North Caucasus, … clearly one of the impacts on the Olympics will be the apprehension everyone has … The security concerns will be heightened.
Anna Borshchevskaya, assistant director of the Atlantic Council’s Patriciu Eurasia Center, added that Russia would have to take serious action, noting that Sochi was an “odd choice” to host the Olympics:
It’s a historic homeland to Circassians forcefully driven out of their land by the Russian czar in the 1800s. Sochi is right next to Abkhazia–a cause of tensions between Russia and Georgia and of course Sochi is also close to Chechnya. Putting the Olympics there seems to be asking for trouble.
She also noted that because Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to “crack down on civil society” and “commit human rights violations” without an American response, the Chechnyans may target America. She said, “The Obama administration has been largely silent in response to Putin’s repressions. The Boston marathon bombings may be a tragic reminder that being silent on abuses abroad eventually reverberates at home.”