By Barbara Starr
The U.S. military is putting the final touches on a series of orders that will put transport aircraft on standby status to assist in the evacuation of Americans, should that become necessary, at the Olympic Games in Sochi, CNN has learned.
Two U.S. military officials confirmed to CNN the orders are expected to be issued next week and will go into effect with the opening of the Winter Games on February 7.
Both officials strongly emphasized Friday that Russia remains responsible for security and any request for U.S. military assets would have to come through the State Department, which is coordinating government security arrangements for Americans.
The military orders will ensure that in the event of a crisis, C-17 transport aircraft and medical evacuation crews will be ready to move from their base at Ramstein, Germany, to Sochi within roughly six hours of being notified.
One of the officials said the Russians have made it clear that Americans may be evacuated, if they become ill or are injured, after they are stabilized at Russian hospitals.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hinted at the Pentagon plans, saying in a January 24 press conference, "If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do that."
Hagel has spoken to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu twice in recent days about Olympic security and to offer assistance.
"The two leaders agreed to maintain through subordinate military commands some sort of regular open dialogue as the Olympics draw near and as they progress," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.
The United States is moving two warships into the Black Sea, Hagel said previously.