The Russians Are Coming … And Have Been For Years

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Earlier this week, residents living along the eastern Connecticut and western Rhode Island shoreline — not to mention the eastern tip of Long Island — received a shot of panic when a sitting congressman took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to voice concerns over a Russian spy ship parked 30 miles off the mouth of the Thames River.

“Mr. Speaker, as we are sitting here in this Chamber, right now off the coast of Groton, Connecticut, 30 miles from the Groton Navy Sub Base, which is the oldest submarine base in America, there is a Russian spy ship, the Viktor Leonov, that is loitering — as was reported this morning from the Navy and news sources — off the coast, again, within the bare minimum of international waters,” U.S. Representative Joe Courtney, a Democrat and member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, said.

What Courtney neglected to point out in his remarks, other than that the demarcation line for international waters begins 11 miles off the East Coast, is the fact that Russia has kept up this practice for decades:

For example, in September 2015, CBS News reported the presence of what it defined as a “Russian research ship” as it made its way south along the East Coast en-route to Cuba. However, following Courtney’s comments, CBS defined the latest vessel to navigate the waters off the East Coast as a “Russian spy ship.”

Courtney delivered his comments at a time when the new administration of President Donald Trump has attempted to swat away allegations that he and his campaign maintained close ties with Russia, the country being blamed for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. On the same day that Courtney took to the House floor to warn about the presence of the Viktor Leonov, the New York Times released another blistering report linking Trump’s team to Russian intelligence officials — ahead of the 2016 election.

“Again, the folks in Connecticut woke up this morning with that news about the spy ship off the coast. As you can imagine, it has created a lot of consternation and questions,” Courtney added.

The Russian ship’s presence in international waters, however, did not slam the news cycle until Courtney delivered his remarks. That’s when other top Connecticut Democrats, including longtime U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, elected to chime in:

DeLauro later acknowledged that the vessel was in fact not a submarine. The ship last made its rounds off the East Coast in 2015. In January 2015, the ship docked in Havana at the same time as then-President Barack Obama was making a historic visit to Cuba.

Courtney did not deliver floor remarks following any of those incidents.

The latest news regarding the Viktor Leonov indicates that the vessel is currently stationed off the coast of Virginia.