Russia deploys intelligence ship to Hawaii

Matthew Fox

The coast guard said Wednesday that they were tracking a vessel in Hawaiian territorial waters. According to a video released to the public, the ship was roughly 100 miles off the coast. It was spotted on January 11th, 2023. Although the coast guard’s job is to track ALL vessels in territorial waters. This ship specifically stood out, and is believed to be an intelligence gathering vessel.


The ship specifically was identified as a Russian Vishnya class vessel, more specifically the Kareliya. The ship is known to be stationed  off of a far Eastern base in Vladivostok (the easternmost point of Russian territory, closest to Alaska) However, this ship specifically is no stranger to American coastal waters. It was spotted 15 miles off the coast in 2021, and another intelligence ship was spotted in 2016. Although it’s not confirmed if that sighting was the same vessel as what was spotted. 


The video released by the coast guard actually shows the ship in full taking on fuel from a Russian fuel tanker called Pechanga. It’s important to note that intelligence ships are not stealth vessels, and the nature of their work is not exactly hidden either. Nations regularly send intelligence ships to other countries to monitor their naval exercises and activities. The vessel is also totally unarmed, only performing surveillance work.


The only reason the coast guard is truly concerned about this activity is in how it relates to the United States Exclusive Economic Zone. In international law, the EEZ is a 200 mile “radius” from the coast of a country, in which that country has exclusive rights to any resources found there. But in this case, the American EEZ was not violated. 


Although on its own the incident is small, routine even. It’s important to remember that during the cold war, these types of activities were also common, and with tensions between east and west being so high, it does beg the question as to if more abrasive operations are planned in the future.