Russian Spy Ship Spotted Snooping Around US Nuclear Submarine Bases

The Viktor Leonov CCB-175, a Russian Navy intelligence warship, is docked to a pier in Old Havana January 20, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The Viktor Leonov CCB-175, a Russian Navy intelligence warship, is docked to a pier in Old Havana January 20, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A Russian spy ship has been spotted sailing up the US's east coast over the past few weeks, recently coming close to a US Navy base that houses ballistic-missile submarines.

Though US relations with Russia have deteriorated lately amid reports of Russian military aggression, meddling in the 2016 US election, and possible contacts with the Trump administration before and during his presidency, the ship has made the annual trip since at least 2014, and it's nothing to freak out over.

"There's been incidents like this over many years. This is not a serious incident," James Jeffrey, a former deputy national security adviser to George W. Bush who is now a member of the Washington Institute, told Business Insider.

The US Navy echoed Jeffrey's lack of enthusiasm.

"We are aware of the vessel's presence," Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Defense Department spokeswoman, told Business Insider. "It has not entered US territorial waters."

The US often has similar spy ships in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, but it should be noted that the US has allies in those regions, whereas Russia is a long way off from any friendly nations.

A former US Navy officer with knowledge of signals told Business Insider that while Russia could in theory be eavesdropping on US voice transmissions, Moscow has many ways to do that. Instead, the former officer said, the vessel is likely focusing on intercepting and analyzing US radar and sonar waveforms -- something the US routinely does to Russia.

Most likely, Russia is collecting data on US Navy emissions to catalog them and plan how to use electronic countermeasures against the US emissions in the case of war, the former Navy source said. Russia, however, is unlikely to get much data from 30 miles out at sea, he added.

Jeffrey said the Navy had the ability to disrupt Russia's listening equipment but would most likely do nothing but "shadow the ship."

"In a time of peace you might say, 'We're not at war with Russia, so why should we show them how we'd jam their equipment?'" Jeffrey said.

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