Polish diplomat Romuald Spasowski is the only ambassador to Washington to seek political asylum in recent memory, according to State Department officials.
Officials said they could not recall the last time an ambassador to the United States had defected, but said Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations had defected in 1979 after Soviet intervention in his country.
The last major Eastern European defection in Washington was in 1967 when Jason Radvanyi resigned as the Hungarian charge d'affaires and sought asylum. He had been Hungary's highest ranking diplomat here.
The best known recent defection from the Communist bloc occurred in 1978 when Arkady N. Shevchenko, undersecretary of the Soviet mission to the United Nations, sought asylum in New York City. It was later learned that he gave $40,000 and a sports car to Judy Chavez, a prostitute, that the CIA had arranged for him to meet.
In 1951, three Polish diplomats, including the second-ranking official at the embassy here, defected. The last of the three to seek asylum was Zygmut Litynski, then the embassy's commercial counselor. According to a newspaper report at the time, "Litynski was regarded as a disruptive influence at the embassy because of his reluctance to kowtow to the Russians." He also had refused to join the Communist Party.