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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Russian subs patrol US coast

Any time the Russian Navy does something so out of the ordinary it is cause for worry

Two Russian nuclear-powered submarines have been patrolling off the US East Coast in recent days, the first such move in several years and one that has US officials concerned, the New York Times said on Wednesday.

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    Citing defence and intelligence officials speaking on condition of anonymity, a report on the paper’s website said one submarine remained in international waters some 320 kilometres off the US coast, while the location of the other remained unclear.

    The pair were Akula class vessels, the paper said.

    The episode does not appear to pose any immediate threat to the United States, but it echoes the cat-and-mouse maneuvers of the Soviet and US militaries during the Cold War, when Moscow and Washington routinely sent submarines towards one another’s coasts to gather intelligence and track fleet movements.

    "Any time the Russian Navy does something so out of the ordinary it is cause for worry," a senior US Defense Department official who has monitored reports about the submarines’ activities was quoted as saying.

    "We’ve known where they were, and we’re not concerned about our ability to track the subs," said the official. "We’re concerned just because they are there."

    Naval historian and submarine warfare expert Norman Polmar told the Times: "I don’t think they’ve put two first-line nuclear subs off the US coast in about 15 years."

    While Pentagon officials declined to speculate about what weapons may be aboard the vessels, the submarines are considered not among the larger class of Russian submarines that can launch nuclear missiles, the Times reported.

    The revelations of the Russian movements come as Moscow seeks to move on from the embarrassment of another failed test of its intercontinental Bulava missile.

    The missile, which can carry nuclear warheads, veered off course and blew up mid-flight after it was launched from Russia’s Dmitri Donskoi submarine in the White Sea on July 16.

    Several such tests have already ended in failure, including one in December 2008 launched by the same submarine in the White Sea, off the northwest coast of Russia. On that occasion the missile also exploded in mid-air.

    Once a mighty global naval power, Russian ship forays into open seas have become less common, although a flotilla of Russian warships conducted joint naval operations with Venezuela last December in the Caribbean Sea, close to US waters.

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