President says Russian spy ship spotted off CT coast 'not good'

The Viktor Leonov was in Havana, Cuba earlier this week. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

With tongue in-cheek, President Donald Trump responded to media questions on Thursday during a news conference which he talked about the Russian spy ship cruising off the Connecticut coast.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin said the Viktor Leonov was 75 miles northeast of Norfolk and headed down south. The ship was still about 30 miles off the coast. It's expected to head to Cuba once it completes its mission, the U.S. Coast Guard told Eyewitness News.

The Viktor Leonov was still considered to be in international waters on Thursday. U.S. territorial waters extend 12 miles off of the coast.

Officials told CBS that they did not believe that it posed a threat to people. However, they do see it as an instance of Russian provocation.

CBS reported that the Leonov has conducted similar patrols in 2014 and 2015 but has only traveled as far as Virginia. However, this is the furthest north it has ever journeyed.

The ship is part of Russia's northern fleet on the North Sea.

During a Thursday afternoon news conference, President Donald Trump said the ship near the United States was "not good" when asked by a CBS News reporter.

Trump admonished the media by sarcastically saying the best thing he could do was "blow that ship out of the water."

He followed that up by saying "that's not great."

Members of the Connecticut Delegation reacted to the president's statements.

"While this spy ship is no longer off the coast of Connecticut, and has moved south, my strong view is that this incident shows the need for proactive steps to prevent cyber surveillance or electronic espionage. These steps include closely monitoring and physically accompanying such ships when they are near our nation’s coast, and hardening and enhancing our safeguards against these ships collecting and intercepting sensitive information. The focus of such security efforts should be private facilities like Electric Boat and other shipyards, as well as military bases and ports," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut said in a statement on Thursday.

.@realDonaldTrump just joked about blowing up a Russian spy ship off Connecticut's coast. Not okay - this is about our national security!— Rosa DeLauro (@rosadelauro) February 16, 2017

CBS said the vessel is outfitted with a variety of high-tech spying equipment that's designed to intercept radar, radio and other electronic signals.

"One needs to take into consideration we do the same to them. We're constantly monitoring where the Russians are doing, we're constantly monitoring where the Chinese are doing," Alex Hybel, who is a professor of international politics at Connecticut College, said.

It set sail from Cuba and was spotted off the coast of Delaware on Tuesday, according to CBS. It's route would have taken it past several U.S. Navy installations. However, the ship is not believed to have picked up any sensitive information, but Hybel said nations look at each other in perspective of both military power and economic power, the spy ships presence was a show of power.

"Russia is not a substantial economic power it does have a substantial amount of oil and gas, but beyond that it has not developed its economy," Hybel said.

The spy ship was one of three Russian incidents that caught the attention of the U.S. Navy in the last week.

On Friday, the USS Porter was in the Black Sea when Russian attack jets carried out a low-flying "mock attack" against the vessel, the Navy told CNN.

Russian officials said on Tuesday that there was no incident involving flybys of military planes.

The U.S. also accused Russia of secretly deploying cruise missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, which is in violation of a major arms control treaty.

"When we know that that vessel is in range, it's highly unlikely that we are using radio or radar waves or any other kind of electronic emissions that this vessel is capable of picking up," Michael Peterson, director of the Russian Maritime Studies Institute, told CBS This Morning. "We know they're doing it. They know that we know that they're doing it."

The Pentagon told CBS that it really can't do anything about the ship unless it ventures within the 12 mile threshold of U.S. waters or it breaks international laws.

In Connecticut, the Naval Submarine Base in Groton heightened security on Wednesday. At Connecticut College in New London, with an expansive view of the Long Island Sound and Montauk Point, not far where the ship was cruising, students were trying to make sense of the political posturing between the two super-powers.

"It's a little nerve wracking considering we're hearing this about the same time we're hearing the controversy surrounding the Trump Administration and their relationship with the Russian Governments," Brianna Cole, who was a student at Connecticut College, said.

"It's sort of comical just because evokes a memory to the past Cold War tensions and what-not," Alexander Mintz, who was a student at Connecticut College, said.

A number of Connecticut officials, including Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee member Rep. Joe Courtney, condemned the action of Russia. Courtney said the maneuver underscored the threats posed by the country.

Copyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Digital Content Producer

Recommended for you