Russian spy ship sails 30 miles from U.S. submarine base

The Viktor Leonov CCB-175, a Russian Navy intelligence warship. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Meg Wagner

Close to the U.S., but still in international waters

A Russian spy ship sailed a mere 30 miles from the Connecticut coast on Wednesday — lurking near a U.S. Navy base in Groton that is home to 15 nuclear submarines — during a tumultuous week for U.S.-Russian relations.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been tracking the Viktor Leonov as it moves along the U.S. coast in international waters. The ship had been spotted about 70 miles from Delaware’s shores on Monday.

Since the Russian vessel has not entered U.S. territory, which extends 12 miles into the ocean from the coast, officials have not taken action against it.

“We respect freedom of navigation exercised by all nations beyond the territorial sea of a coastal state consistent with international law,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

News of the ship’s presence came just after President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned Monday amid allegations that he may have illegally spoken to the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions.

Despite officials’ reassurance that the spy ship’s mission close to the U.S. is legal, some lawmakers condemned it as an overt display of Russian aggression.

“Anyone who would loiter off the coast of Connecticut isn’t doing it because of the great climate and weather — it’s freezing weather,” Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) said while addressing his colleagues in Congress Wednesday. “They are doing it with aggressive intent.”

“Russia is acting like it has a permission slip to expand influence, test limits of reach,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) added on Twitter.

A history of international travel

It’s not uncommon for foreign ships and aircraft to travel near the U.S. In September 2015, another Russian spy ship sailed close to King’s Bay in Georgia, where the U.S. Navy maintains another submarine base. That vessel, the Yanter, also approached the Florida coast, where it performed standard research mapping out the U.S.’s communication cables.

Around the same time, Chinese warships sailed close to Alaska, traveling through the Bering Sea as then-President Barack Obama visited the state.

Retired U.S. Navy officials insisted that the Leonov’s latest mission is also standard.

“I wouldn’t make a mountain out of a mole hill,” Retired Commander David Candler told the Hartford Courant. “It’s a ship, but it’s not the Great White fleet … These kinds of ships — and we do the same thing — go all over the place to stay reasonably accustomed to the waters.”

The U.S. also sends its ships close to other countries. On Friday, a U.S. missile destroyer was stationed in the Black Sea when four Russian aircraft buzzed by it at an “unsafe” distance, Pentagon officials said.

Repeated demands for investigation

The Leonov’s proximity to Connecticut marks the first time that a Russian ship has sailed so close to the U.S. since Trump took office, prompting some critics to question how the new administration — which has a complicated relationship with Moscow — may handle Russian aggression.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) demanded that Trump — who suggested on Twitter Wednesday that Obama was “too soft” on Russia — turn his attention to the ship instead of criticizing the previous administration.

“Russia is flexing its muscle and floating a submarine off the coast of Connecticut. Maybe you should focus your attention there?” she tweeted at the president.

Democrats suggested that the ship’s presence only reaffirms their demands for investigations into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Lawmakers have already called for both an extensive probe into Flynn’s talks with Russia and a 9/11-style commission to investigate allegations that Russia hacked the U.S. election to help Trump win the White House.

“This is a stark reminder of why we need a full account of Russia’s influence in the White House & meddling in our election,” Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) tweeted.


  • Sargent Pepper

    In the town where I was born
    Live a man who sailed to sea
    And he told us of his life
    In the land of submarines

  • fake news

    Love how the fake news dismisses claims about illegals voting for Hillary as crazy and conspiracy theories but then they keep going on about Russia and how they must have hacked the election and anyone that supports Trump must be a Russian spy!

  • Real American

    We need to be strong allies with the russians and chinese, not at odds… we could easily solve world problems if we got on the same page.

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    That would be called “international waters”.

    Am I the only sane person left who is not concerned with this Russia stuff at all? I mean, not one bit am I concerned of this attempt to rekindle in see to regurgitate in the form of fake news, the Cold War?

    I am not concerned with Russia, nor do I care what they’re doing.

  • Libby Ral

    There’s a ship in international waters, Putin must need to be close to use his radio controlled American president. OMG, we are going to get to the bottom of this. Russia rigged the election! I need to cry myself to sleep now.

    • sw

      No need to cry yourself to sleep. If Putin wants to know anything, all he has to do is call presidents Trump or Bannon.

  • Tomtom

    Isn’t it obvious???Flynn called UBER for a ride home to Russia. Sad story. But I thought he was great on McHales Navy as Captain Parmenter.

    • Back to ?

      Well what are you communist Clinton lovers worried about? I didn’t hear no complaints last year about it when they cruised by us while obumbler was once again on vacation

      • sw

        This weekend, the taxpayer will fork out another three million so this buffoon can go to Florida again, to play golf. Not to mention hold court at the dining room table in front of civilians. (And their worried about leaks) Total bill for the last three weekends, rough estimate is nine million. Looks like he’s going to re-campaign because he didn’t like the first result. He won and he’s still not happy.

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