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Russian Spy Ship Spotted Offshore From Connecticut; Congressman Says Goal Is To Test U.S.

GROTON, Conn. (CBSNewYork/CBS News) -- A Russian spy ship patrolling the East Coast was located near a U.S. submarine base off the coast of Connecticut Wednesday.

The ship, known as an AGI (Auxiliary, General Intelligence), was located 30 miles from Groton, Connecticut, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported.

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U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Connecticut) sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. WCBS 880's Steve Scott asked Himes what the ship was doing off the Connecticut coast.

"First of all, people should understand that this is not unprecedented, and this is not an offensive ship that is going, you know, land troops or start a war," Himes said. "This is an intelligence and reconnaissance ship that largely has technologies – and we've got plenty of it as well – that can collect signals, intelligence, and listen in on, you know, all sorts of transmissions and that kind of thing."
But the Russians had a purpose in sending the ship to the area, Himes said.

But the Russians had a purpose in sending the ship to the area, Himes said.

"But what it really is, of course, it's a political statement by Russia, saying, 'OK, when the White House is in turmoil, when you don't have a national security adviser, we're going to provoke a little bit and see what the response is,' which of course is what we've seen from North Korea; what we've seen from Iran, and one of the really concerning aspects about the turmoil that we're seeing right now in our national apparatus," he said.

Himes agreed that the Russians' goal was to test President Donald Trump to see how far they can go.

"One of the discouraging things here, of course, is that our potential enemies – our real and potential enemies right now – are looking at the disarray in the White House," Himes said. "They're looking at the fact that the president appears to be at war with the intelligence community who is paid to advise him, and they're saying, 'Hey let's see, if we put our toe over this line over here, how the Americans respond.'"

Groton is the home of Naval Submarine Base New London, which the Navy describes as the "Home of the Submarine Force."

According to the base's website, 6,500 military personnel are stationed there and 1,000 civilian employees work there.

The ship had made a port call in Cuba and has been working its way up the East Coast. It's expected to turn around and head south toward Cuba.

The presence of foreign vessels and aircraft near U.S. territory is nothing new. In 2015, there was a flap about a Russian spy ship hanging out in a spot where trans-Atlantic cables are laid.

The ship's voyage comes as U.S. officials say Russia secretly deployed a cruise missile in December that is specifically banned by a treaty signed in the final years of the Cold War. The missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Also, just five days ago, an incident similar to last year's buzzing by Russian jets of a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea happened again, this time in the Black Sea

First, a Russian patrol plane made a low pass close to the USS Porter, then two Russian jet fighters were followed a short time later by a third. U.S. officials called the fly-bys "unsafe and unprofessional."

On Thursday, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is expected to meet with his Russian counterpart in Azerbaijan, CBS Radio News correspondent Cami McCormick reports.

A statement from Dunford's office released on Wednesday said the meeting will be to "discuss a variety of issues including the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations." The U.S. suspended military relations with Russia after its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine in 2014.

A spokeswoman told McCormick the meeting has been planned for months.

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