Great news: Russian attack subs spotted off east coast of U.S.

You know what this calls for? An Obama speech in Red Square about the common humanity that unites us in a struggle for blah blah blah blah.

But the collapse of the Soviet Union all but eliminated the ability of the Russian Navy to operate far from home ports, making the current submarine patrols thousands of miles from Russia even more surprising for military officials and defense policy experts.

“I don’t think they’ve put two first-line nuclear subs off the U.S. coast in about 15 years,” said Norman Polmar, a naval historian and expert on submarine warfare…

The submarine patrols come as Moscow tries to shake off the embarrassment of the latest failed test of the Bulava missile, a long-range weapon that was test fired from a submarine in the Arctic on July 15. The failed missile test was the sixth since 2005, and some experts see Russia’s assertiveness elsewhere as a gambit by the military to prove its continued relevance…

While the submarines had not taken any provocative action beyond their presence outside territorial waters of the United States, officials expressed wariness over the Kremlin’s motivation for ordering such an unusual mission.

“Any time the Russian Navy does something so out of the ordinary it is cause for worry,” said a senior Defense Department official who has been monitoring reports on the submarines’ activities.

A few possibilities off the top of my head for What This Might Mean in addition to the NYT’s “Bulava missile” theory. (1) Russia wants to see how much The One will let them get away with, just as Biden predicted would happen last year. (2) Russia’s pissed at Biden for his crack a few weeks ago about their economy “withering” and is flexing some muscle in response. (3) Russia’s looking to expand its presence in the western hemisphere more generally, which explains its naval exercises with Venezuela in December. (4) Russia’s gearing up to make another move on Georgia and is putting The One on notice that they’re not to be trifled with when they do. (5) Russia’s got a fee-vah and the only prescription is more bare-chested Putin photos, and a display of military strength in America’s backyard makes for nice optics on the front page tomorrow next to Vlad’s pecs. You’re free to vote for more than one theory — they’re hardly mutually exclusive — but as of right now I’m leaning towards number 4.