The Viktor Leonov, a Russian intelligence gathering ship, had been making its way north along the East Coast of the United States since early this week. On Monday the vessel was 70 miles off the coast of Delaware.
U.S. officials have said that the spy ship was likely headed to a location near Connecticut in international waters where it could be close to the U.S. Navy submarine base in New London. U.S. territorial waters extend 12 miles from shore, so the vessel is in international waters.
According to a U.S. official, the Leonov arrived at its current location within the past 24 hours where it is "loitering" about 30 miles south of New London.
Rep. Joe Courtney, the Democratic congressman who represents the district where the base is located, blasted the Russian ship's arrival off of Connecticut.
Courtney labeled the presence of the Russian ship as an "unacceptable, aggressive action" and said it "underscores that the threats posed by a resurgent Russia are real.”
"While I have total confidence in our Navy’s vigilant, responsible readiness, the White House needs to move past their seeming infatuation with Putin and treat him like the serious threat to global peace and security that he has been for the last five years.” he added in a statement.
A U.S. said official yesterday there wasn't much concern about the Leonov's movements or its intelligence-gathering capabilities.
In recent years Russian spy ships have been spotted operating near King's Bay, Georgia, the Navy's other submarine base along the East Coast. The Leonov is equipped with communications and signal intelligence gathering equipment as well as anti-aircraft missiles.
The Leonov left its home port in northern Russia in late December and was spotted in the mid-Atlantic about a month ago, apparently headed to the Caribbean.
A few days ago the intelligence gathering ship was off the coast of Georgia headed northward. The US Navy has another submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia.
By Monday it was spotted 70 miles east of Delaware headed northward up the coast.
But in 2014, the Russian Navy resumed sending spy ships off the American eastern seaboard.
The Viktor Leonov has been involved in two of the three previous deployments off the coast of the submarine base at Kings Bay.
In April, 2014, the Leonov along with the Russian Navy tugboat Nikolay Chiker operated in international waters off the coast of Jacksonville in northern Florida, close to Kings Bay.
In February, 2015 – The Viktor Leonov was once again off the coast of Jacksonville, about 22 miles southeast of Kings Bay.
In September, 2015, another Russian intelligence ship, the Yantar, was detected about 300 miles east of Kings Bay, Ga. The Yantar was likely gathering intelligence on underwater communication cables and other equipment used by the submarines at Kings Bay.
Visits by Russian Navy submarines since the end of the Cold War are even rarer America's East Coast namely because of the financial cost involved in the long deployments needed for submarines.
There are only two publicly known visits by Russian submarines to positions off the East Coast, in 2009 and 2012.