Ejection of 55 Soviets by U.S. Unprecedented in Its Scope

Times Staff Writer

Expulsions of Soviet and American diplomats have been frequent occurrences since the Cold War era began four decades ago, but Washington’s order expelling 55 Soviet diplomats Tuesday was unprecedented in its scope.

Although the British and Soviets recently expelled dozens of each other’s officials, never before have so many diplomats at one time become pawns in U.S.-Soviet superpower chess games.

Over the years since World War II, the frequent diplomatic ousters by both countries have often been tit-for-tat, though not always in equal numbers.


2 Already Sent Home

When Moscow announced the ouster of a U.S. vice consul from the Soviet Union in September, 1983, it was disclosed that two Soviets had been sent home the previous month. In 1982, however, the only expulsion was that of a Soviet military attache accused of espionage, and the Soviet government accepted the action without retaliating.

In April, 1983, three Soviets were quietly sent home after they were caught trying to obtain secret U.S. technology. Two months later, Moscow expelled a U.S. diplomat without specific charges.

The U.S.-Soviet record before the latest incidents was conservative when compared with that of other nations.

In 1983, for example, a total of 135 Soviets were expelled from 21 countries. A 1984 State Department report said the figure, which included journalists and other non-diplomats, was probably lower than the actual number because many countries prefer not to make a public issue of such cases.

105 Ordered Out

In 1971, Britain virtually emptied Moscow’s London embassy by ordering the departure of 105 officials accused of spying. Britain expelled 31 more Soviet diplomats last September after a defecting senior Soviet diplomat identified them as spies.

France expelled 47 Soviet officials in April, 1983, after the murder of a French counterespionage agent. Bangladesh ousted 18 Soviet diplomats and Iran an equal number in the same year.

Canada deported 13 diplomats from the comparatively small Soviet Embassy in Ottawa in February, 1978, accusing them of trying to recruit a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a spy. In January, 1980, the Canadians ejected three more Soviets on charges that the three were trying to obtain U.S. military secrets from an American citizen in Canada.