US eyeing Olympic security after Russia attacks

The White House says the United States would welcome ”closer

cooperation” with Russia on security preparations for the Winter

Olympics following a pair of deadly attacks that sparked fears

about the terrorism threat at the February Games.

”The U.S. government has offered our full support to the

Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic

Games,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Monday. ”We

would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety

of the athletes, spectators and other participants.”

Officials say that while Russia will be responsible for overall

security at the Games, U.S. personnel will be in the country in

what the Obama administration is calling ”liaison roles.” The

effort will be headed by the State Department’s Bureau of

Diplomatic Security, which typically assists host nations during

events where a large number of Americans will be present.

Diplomatic security agents will work with Russian security and law

enforcement officials.

While the U.S. and Russia had already been in contact about

security, the back-to-back attacks in the southern city of

Volgograd have highlighted the terrorist threat Russia faces as it

prepares to host the Winter Games in February. At least 31 people

were killed in the separate explosions at a railway station and on

a bus in Volgograd, which lies about 400 miles away from the site

of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The State Department on Monday urged Americans planning to

attend the Olympics to remain alert at all times.

”Major events such as the Olympic games are an opportunity for

thieves or for other folks who want to cause mischief,” State

Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. ”Threats have been made

against the Olympic games and acts of terrorism, including

bombings, continue to occur in Russia.”

White House officials said President Barack Obama had been

briefed on the attacks while on vacation in his home state of

Hawaii. The White House has condemned the attacks and offered

condolences to those injured and the families of those killed.

The upcoming Olympics have highlighted the complicated

relationship between the U.S. and Russia. The two countries are

necessary partners on an array on foreign policy matters, including

Iranian nuclear negotiations and the effort to strip Syria of its

chemical weapons stockpiles. Officials say counterterrorism

cooperation between the U.S. and Russia has also increased

following the April Boston Marathon bombing, which was believed to

have been carried out by two brothers with ties to Russia’s

volatile Caucasus region. And Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren

made a point of stressing Monday that the military-to-military

relationship between the two countries ”is as good as it’s ever

been.”

However, tensions mounted between the Obama and Russian

President Vladimir Putin after Russia granted temporary asylum to

Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor who leaked

secrets about American surveillance programs. Obama has also been

publicly critical of a Russian law banning ”gay propaganda.”

In a clear message to Russia, the U.S. delegation to the

Olympics includes several openly gay athletes, including tennis

player Billie Jean King and figure skater Brian Boitano. And for

the first time since 2000, the American delegation to the Olympics

will not include a president, vice president or first lady.

Associated Press writers Sagar Meghani and Deb Riechmann

contributed to this report from Washington

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC