MOSCOW - An American Navy command ship, the U.S.S. Mount Whitney entered the Black Sea Wednesday as part of Pentagon security measures ahead of the Sochi Olympics, officials told NBC News.
Hot on its heels, is the guided missile frigate Taylor that is also expected to arrive in small sea near the South West of Russia on Wednesday.
U.S. officials said they did not see any scenario in which military force would be used, but had instead been sent to the region to offer assistance if American athletes are forced to evacuate the winter games by a major terrorist attack.
Both ships have small landing decks that can handle single helicopter landings, although officials said that if the competitors were forced to evacuate they would be more likely to leave by either commercial flights or on planes chartered by the State Department.
However, officials said the two warships could assist in command and control of operations, vital communications and possible intelligence to American officials on the ground.
The U.S.S. Mount Whitney has 300 Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners onboard, while the Taylor has a crew of approximately 200 Sailors.
Russia is spending an estimated $50 billion on the games and has vowed that they will be safe. Islamist militants from the turbulent Caucasus region, several hundred miles from Sochi, have warned that they plan to attack the Olympics.
Security analysts have discounted the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin would ask for help.
Alastair Jamieson contributed to this report, from London.
First published February 5 2014, 2:32 AM
Jim Miklaszewski is the chief Pentagon correspondent for NBC News. On 9/11, he was the first at the scene to report that the Pentagon had been attacked and has since led the network's coverage of the war in Afghanistan.
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Since joining NBC in 1985, Miklaszewski was a White House correspondent during the Clinton and Bush administrations, covering President Clinton's transition from Little Rock, his many trips abroad including Moscow and the Middle East and his reelection. He was also an NBC floor reporter at the Democratic and Republican conventions in 1996 and 2000.
In the Bush White House, Miklaszewski reported on the Gulf War with Iraq, summits with Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and the Bush reelection campaign in 1992.
Miklaszewski has logged considerable foreign experience with battlefront coverage of wars in Lebanon, El Salvador and the Falkland Islands. He also covered the United States air raid on Libya, and the "tanker wars" in the Persian Gulf.