Trump references Russian spy ship in news conference Thursday

In responding to questions about contact made between his administration and Russia, President Donald Trump referenced the Russian ship spotted Wednesday in international waters off the coast of Connecticut.

Trump's critics, he said, would likely think "the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water."

"Everyone in this country's going to say, 'Oh, it's so great.' That's not great. That's not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia," Trump said during a news conference Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, was quick to fire back, posting on Twitter on Thursday afternoon: ".@realDonaldTrump just joked about blowing up a Russian spy ship off Connecticut's coast. Not okay - this is about our national security!"

The presence of a Russian ship in international waters off the East Coast is hardly unusual. It also isn't illegal. The U.S. maritime boundary extends 12 miles from the coast, and the Cold War-era ship spotted Wednesday, the SSV-175 Viktor Leonov, was reportedly 30 miles off the coast. The ship's primary goal is to collect radio and telephone signals.

The Viktor Leonov visits the East Coast with some regularity, according to Michael Petersen, director of the Russia Maritime Studies Institute at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. It was spotted in Havana, Cuba, in January 2015, and off the East Coast in April 2015.

While not unprecedented, the ship's presence was being treated with more sensitivity by some given recent events such as national security adviser Michael Flynn's resignation, reports of Russia violating a decades-old arms treaty, and confirmation of Russia's buzzing of a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Black Sea last week.


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