|John McClurg & Robert Hartung|
In February of 2002, I made my way to Salt Lake City, the site of the XIX Winter Olympic Games, where as the Head of Security of one of the Corporate sponsors I had been invited by Mitt Romney to “lock shields” with him and Federal assets in protecting the Olympic games, the first since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The lingering threat posture meant a higher level of security than ever before provided for the Games. The Office of Homeland Security (OHS) had designated the Olympics a National Special Security Event (NSSE). It was the first time in my recollection that security representatives of the Private sector had been invited to join in full partnership in securing our mutual interests. At every Olympics since, the OSAC has had a presence, extending special support to U.S. interests engaged in the Games.
The 2014 Winter Olympics, officially the XXII Olympic Winter Games, are scheduled to be held from 7th to 23rd of February 2014 in the Russian Federation city of Sochi, situated on the Black Sea coast. In advance of this world event, preparations on many fronts are being made, including the launch of a new OSAC Country Council in Moscow, a core around which much of the security interests of the U.S. Private sector have in times past been coordinated.
In all my trips to Moscow, this is my first visit to what I still consider the new U.S. Embassy Complex which, after a highly publicized security compromise, had to be deconstructed in January of 1997 and rebuilt. The U.S. Ambassador was finally authorized to occupy the “new” facility on May 5, 2000, making it already over a decade old.
As in past joint delegations, the OSAC team of Robert Hartung (Assistant Director Diplomatic Security Service), David Schnorbus (Executive Director of OSAC), Brent Heminger (OSAC RISC staff) and I (OSAC Co-Chair) converged on Moscow from different directions. The Deputy Chief of Mission, Sheila Gwaltney, a Russian expert whose knowledge of the country goes back for many years, together with Deputy Regional Security Officer (DRSO) Galen Nace, welcomed us to Moscow and provided the morning’s keynote address and general background. Representatives of approximately 15 different U.S. Corporations were then addressed by the Economic Affairs Section Chief, the Commercial Attaché, and the Resident Legal Advisor. While the challenges corporations face in Russia are not small neither are the potential benefits, offering some of the largest profit margins to be had in the global market place. It wasn’t surprising to also learn that the Russian population, particularly the younger generation, represent one of the highest per capita users of social media on the globe. (This data point had a familiar ring to it--South Korea boasted a similar distinction during our visit there.) As it was our intent in Baghdad last year, it’s hoped that today’s foundational meeting will be that upon which a robust Country Council will grow as we move toward the games of 2014.
After our Country Council, members of the delegation managed a few moments to grab an iconic photo in nearby Red Square, the proverbial heart of Moscow. Notwithstanding a recent Hollywood portrayal, we found it very much intact. A visit to Lenin’s tomb confirmed in my mind the wisdom behind the rumor that after decades the government’s considering possibly interring his body in the ground with those of the other former leaders of the Soviet era.
You’re invited to stay “On the Track of OSAC” as we will continue to chronicle our 2012 travels via this blog from London in just another day and later in the year from India. In the meantime continue look for exact dates and times of Country Council meetings at www.OSAC.gov .