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Events in September this year led to the unfolding of a spy saga involving the US and Spanish intelligence agencies, with the focus centred on Madrid.

The Spanish Government confirmed reports to El Español, that they had expelled two members of the US Embassy. This drastic action followed the detention of two Centro Nacional de Inteligencia ( Spanish National Intelligence Centre or CNI) agents accused of leaking highly classified information.

https://euroweeklynews.com/2023/12/07/spain-expels-us-diplomats-over-spy-scandal/

I know Russia expelled Americans before this, but they're not in Western Europe, so I was wondering if there was a precedent for this before. I couldn't find a single instance that happened recently looking at the news in the previous 5 years. I know the Dutch expelled Russians, but not American diplomats recently.

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    How is Russian not Europe? If you mean EU or "Western Europe" please say so.
    – James K
    Dec 11, 2023 at 23:12
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    @JamesK geographical Europe is up to Ural mountains, but politically only up to the border between West and East Germany ;) Among Russians the debate runs for centuries about whether they are European or whether Russia has its own "special way" (Westernizers vs. Slavophiles.) Dec 12, 2023 at 8:32
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    @RogerV. that debate is of course a political one. Geographically the majority of the Russian population, and the seat of its federal government are clearly in Europe
    – Tristan
    Dec 12, 2023 at 9:40
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    @RogerV. sure. I was mostly pointing out that Russia is only "not in Europe" in a particular political sense, and as James K points out the question would be improved by referring to such a political sense explicitly
    – Tristan
    Dec 12, 2023 at 9:46
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    Sounds like asking if any US ally has any expelled US diplomats is more in the spirit of the question. Europe also includes Belarus, formerly Yugoslavia, which the US had a war against, and during the Cold War the Warsaw Pact.
    – Therac
    Dec 12, 2023 at 11:18

2 Answers 2

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Question:

Is there a precedent of an European country expelling U.S. diplomats over spying?

Yes.

From 1997.

BONN EXPELS U.S. OFFICIAL FOR SPYING

Germany has ordered an American diplomat to leave the country after accusing him of trying to recruit senior officials for espionage and steal secrets related to high-technology projects, government officials said today.

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    Comment for those who don't know: Bonn was formerly the residence of the German federal government (West Germany during division times, and united Germany until they moved back to Berlin). A provincial west-German city does not otherwise have the power to expel diplomats.
    – gerrit
    Dec 12, 2023 at 7:44
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It happens from time to time, but without attracting much media attention. E.g., here is a report from December 7: Spain expels two US embassy staff for bribing intelligence agents:

MADRID, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Spain has discreetly expelled at least two U.S. Embassy staff accused of bribing Spanish intelligence officers for secrets, El Pais newspaper reported on Thursday, citing government sources.

There was no immediate confirmation from either country but, asked about the case, Spain's Defence Minister Margarita Robles played down any impact on relations. She acknowledged a judicial inquiry was underway into "irregular conduct" at the CNI intelligence agency.

Another example (from 2014):
Germany expels CIA official in US spy row

In the category of serious diplomatic incidents one could mention France recalling its ambassador to the US in the context of the AUKUS scandal:

The creation of the partnership spelled the end of a French–Australian submarine deal. On 17 September 2021, France recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the US; French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the partnership a "stab in the back" following Australia's cancellation of the deal worth €56 billion (A$90 billion) without notice, ending recent efforts to develop a deeper strategic partnership between France and Australia. Following the ousting of Scott Morrison's government after the 2022 Australian federal election, the new Labor government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese agreed to a €555 million (US$584 million) settlement with French defence contractor Naval Group. In response, French defence minister Lecornu said that France aims to rebuild its relationship with Australia. In addition, Albanese announced plans to travel to France to reset bilateral relations between the two countries.

(emphasis is mine)

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    Isn't your first example the same incident as the one the OP linked?
    – Idran
    Dec 12, 2023 at 21:47
  • Indeed. But in view of comparison with Russia, it is still worth noting that what is rare are not the expulsions, but that they would be given much publicity. Dec 13, 2023 at 5:17

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