With less than a month to go before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Russians are wheeling out the big guns. Literally. Aside from the so-called ring of steel lockdown around the Black Sea resort city, the army has also deployed air defense systems—that’s military for missiles—to guard the airspace over the games.
While it may seem like a curious choice—the biggest threat to the games appears to be from homegrown terrorists who favor suicide bombs—there is precedent for this.
During the London Olympics, several anti-aircraft missile sites were set up around the city, much to the chagrin of residents of at least one apartment block who sued to have the weapons removed from the roof of their building. (They lost.) Similar missile systems were also deployed in Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004.
How We Know
While these photos actually came out in late November of 2013, the rebel news outlet Kavkaz Center has reposted these images recently, quipping that these Olympics are to be held in "combat conditions." For the supporters of terrorism, militarized Olympics represent the fears of a Russian government unable to provide security. A successful terrorist attack is not the only way to achieve a propaganda victory.
According to Voice of Russia, the Tor-M air defense systems are designed to “detect, track and destroy all kinds of ballistic and cruise missiles, aerial bombs, drones and conventional aircraft, including ones employing stealth technology.”
The Tor-Ms are not the only missile systems being deployed, according to Russian reports. Longer-range missile batteries are also in place, and Russian navy ships are armed with surface-to-air missiles on the Black Sea.
Sochi’s extraordinary security measures also include drones, tight restrictions on car access into the city and visible army patrols.