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50 Russian diplomats expelled from the US on suspicion of being spies.
March 22, 2001 4:27 AM   Subscribe

50 Russian diplomats expelled from the US on suspicion of being spies. Discuss...
posted by Caffa (23 comments total)

 
Good. More parking spaces in DC.
posted by Postroad at 5:00 AM on March 22, 2001


woohoo! it'll be just like the cold war all over again!
posted by rklawler at 5:29 AM on March 22, 2001


Typical when a mole is unearthed. Russia will retailiate by expelling a smaller number of U.S. diplomats that its counterintel people have singled out. U.S. might retailiate to that by expeling a few more. Then it'll be over with.

The game that's played in intelligence circles is deciding WHO to expel, not how many. If you have someone at an embassy feeding you info, it's a calculated risk to return them to Russia. They may go silent, but they also may rise in the intelligence service, giving you a nice resource inside the government.

It's also possible the U.S. may have included the source that "turned" Hanssen in among those to be kicked out, in hopes of providing some cover -- assuming that source was here in the U.S.

Moralizing aside, it's a fascinating chess game -- except in this game, there are lives on the line.
posted by darren at 5:46 AM on March 22, 2001


Putin's on the record as calling this "spymania". Given the number expelled, I have to agree: nixing one-ninth of the entire diplomatic staff is a wee bit excessive, even if you do suspect large-scale espionage. As the BBC notes, the last time such a mass expulsion took place was in 1986. Memo to the US government: it's not 1986 any more. And you have to draw parallels between this and the missile-defence policy, where the guiding principle seems to be "arm first, do the diplomacy later."

(Gotta love the BBC picture editors, though: that snap of Bush at the top of the page looks like a still from "The Naked Gun 2001".)
posted by holgate at 5:57 AM on March 22, 2001


Serves right the commie bastards!
Actually I remember reading something about those jobs that they are very prestigious and it takes a lot of money to get one. Anyway, is this pay back for that one guy? The one Russia imprisoned?
posted by tiaka at 6:24 AM on March 22, 2001


THE COLD WARRIORS ARE BACK IN THE SADDLE, GOD HELP US ALL.
posted by fergy21 at 7:29 AM on March 22, 2001


Memo to the US government: it's not 1986 any more."

Anyone who believes that espionage isn't going on at the same levels it did during the Cold War is demonstrating remarkable naivete. Given the importance of industrial espionage in the current world economy, and the willingness of governments to sponsor it, efforts by the U.S. to fix its counterintel operations and hinder the Russians are quite justified.

That said, the French are reported to be the worst offenders. When are we kicking some of their spies out of the country?
posted by darren at 8:07 AM on March 22, 2001


It seems that Dubyah waxes nostalgic for the early days of the cold war. He's already alienated North Korea and Russia. By the end his only friends will be his small clique of Texas rednecks.
posted by DeBug at 8:40 AM on March 22, 2001


Anyone who believes that espionage isn't going on at the same levels it did during the Cold War is demonstrating remarkable naivete.

I'm not questioning the level of espionage, but the way in which it's countered. The point being that there are subtler ways to deal with spies in times of peace than expulsion. Kicking people out of the country is never an act of counter-espionage, since the damage has more often than not already been done: instead, it's the political equivalent of giving the finger.
posted by holgate at 9:12 AM on March 22, 2001


Well, exactly. This action seems to me to be calculated to provoke Russia, and to escalate hostility.
posted by Caffa at 9:32 AM on March 22, 2001


That said, the French are reported to be the worst offenders. When are we kicking some of their spies out of the country?

We'll probably wait until they do something useful with the info they've gathered. I mean, it's not like France has ever won a war or anything.

This was all supposed to sound tongue-in-cheek, but you know, I can't remember the last war France DID win...
posted by annathea at 9:38 AM on March 22, 2001


the last war France DID win

well they invaded us (UK) (Norman conquest)
posted by andrew cooke at 10:04 AM on March 22, 2001


They weren't speaking German in France last time I checked, so I'd say they "won" something around 1945.
posted by megnut at 11:58 AM on March 22, 2001


The fact that France was not speaking German last time you checked has nothing to do with them. They lost their asses in under a month in WWII, it took allied military power and US industry to bail them out 6 years later.
posted by a3matrix at 12:35 PM on March 22, 2001


They weren't speaking German in France last time I checked, so I'd say they "won" something around 1945.

The logic here is peccable. They weren't speaking English in Germany the last time I checked, so I guess Germany won, too.

France came out of WWII rather diminished from what they were going into it. Not really a slam-dunk in the "W" column.
posted by Skot at 12:40 PM on March 22, 2001


. . . mutter . . . what a2matrix said . . . rotten work interfering with timely posts . . .
posted by Skot at 12:41 PM on March 22, 2001


I can't remember the last war France DID win...

Well, even discounting the two world wars and the Crimea, they did pretty well across Europe under the command of a short bloke from Corsica....
posted by holgate at 2:38 PM on March 22, 2001


This is suddenly off-topic, but despite the popularity of France-bashing, their conduct during WWII is easily explained by a couple of facts:

(1) France was the first European country to really jump on to the birth-control (defined broadly in this case) bandwagon in the late 19th century due changes in inheritance laws; the French government was trying to convince people to have more children in the early 20th century because the birth rate was declining and was very close (if not past) zero replacement rate.

(2) France bore the brunt of economic cost (before the reparations levied against Germany post-war), physical damage to the land and casualty rates during WWI. If France rolled over faster than a $10 whore when Germany invaded during WWII, it was because they knew exactly what they could expect, and they simply didn't have the military-age men to fill the ranks of the Army (due to the earlier point about birth rates). While many may disagree with the Vichy government, they did what they felt they had to do at the time. It is virtually undisputed that France would not have been able to defeat Germany, and would have suffered unacceptable casualty rates in the attempt.

Okay, history lesson over. I was just happy to be able to speak on a topic which I actually happen to know something about!
posted by jennaratrix at 2:56 PM on March 22, 2001


Indeed, many French fought valiantly alongside our troops. If any country gets branded with the 'military ineptitude' label, it's Italy. I think a lot of attitudes toward France had less to do with actual capability and a lot to do with Continental standoffishness. There were French, even at the highest levels, who thought that England was a greater threat in the long term, which didn't necessarily have anything to do with Nazi sympathies. There was a moment when the French fleet, in semi-exile in Tunis, could have come over to the Allies, but the Admiral quite simply hated the British (in addition to worries about retaliation in Occupied France). He stayed ostensibly neutral, and we bombed the hell out of those boats. When Americans and Brits came ashore in the first shore landings in Africa, the UK units were under instructions not to show the Union Jack; it was assumed that the French would shoot at the British, but not necessarily at the Americans.

*sigh* but back on-topic: Yeah, this spymania will blow over, like they all do. It's just part of the tit-for-tat game and they know the rules as well as we do. Incidentally, though, the presumed source for the Hanssen info is already in Moscow. Detail I always loved: they were tipped off by classified US documents given them by a Russian agent that had Hanssen's fingerprints on them ...
posted by dhartung at 3:18 PM on March 22, 2001


Yeah, I guess I forgot about that Napolean guy.
posted by annathea at 4:18 PM on March 22, 2001


Alors, c'est fini, la guerre?

Expelling 50 diplomats does seem a little excessive. After all, we spy on them too. And expulsions are likely to do little to actually discourage anyone from spying again. I hope Bush's future foreign relations decisions will be guided more by a constructive policy than by politics.
posted by Loudmax at 5:52 PM on March 22, 2001


I was just watching Late Night Poker, and was struck by the similarities between it and this game of bluff and counterbluff. And then I thought of world leaders around the poker table, and imagined Devilfish Putin walking away with all the chips.
posted by holgate at 7:41 PM on March 22, 2001


Russia will retailiate by expelling a smaller number of U.S. diplomats that its counterintel people have singled out. U.S. might retailiate to that by expeling a few more. Then it'll be over with.

I guess I called that one.... except Russia decided to match our number. Now Bush, er, Cheney, will have to decide whether to let it go or kick out a few more.
posted by darren at 5:56 AM on March 23, 2001


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