This article is about Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s links with the KGB in his early career and the concerted effort of an almost united Norwegian press corps to prevent the story from being published.
Dagbladet, which is a left-wing newspaper, has been almost alone in drawing attention to the close ties that existed between the Labour Party in Norway and the KGB from the 1950s to the early 1990s. The rest of the media in Norway, however, have remained silent, which makes you wonder whether they are trying to put the lid on it, as this has the potential of becoming the news story of the decade in Norway.
The reason why Dagbladet is bringing this story back to the front pages after almost a decade is that there is a strong suspicion that members from the Labour Party have managed to stop the publication of a book by a former KGB agent which could have revealed the identity of several Norwegian KGB contacts.
I chose to translate the article not only because of the KGB angle, but also because it gives people an inside view into how the elite in Norway (media and politicians) are able to suppress certain stories and news reports that they don’t like.
In a normal society the courts would have become involved if there was even a slight suspicion that specific members of a political party had been involved in handing over classified information to a foreign power, and in particular a hostile foreign power. But in Norway this doesn’t seems to be the case. The courts aren’t going to touch this one. But then again Norway isn’t a normal healthy society so it doesn’t really surprise me.
The Observer’s translation from Document.no:
Jens-Steklov almost trapped in KGB’s net
by Hans Rustad, July 6, 2011
Alf R. Jacobsen has an article in Dagbladet today that sheds light on Jens Stoltenberg’s contact with the KGB. The KGB had a file on Stoltenberg under the category “advanced contacts”, which meant he was being groomed with the aim of snaring him in the KGB net.
When Oleg Gordijevskij exposed Arne Treholt as a spy it came as complete shock to the Norwegian Government and the Labour Party. It was the Russian double agent Mikhail Butkov who kept POT (the Norwegian Secret Service) and the British MI6 informed about what happened inside the KGB.
Butkov had learnt that his colleague at the Soviet embassy in Oslo, KGB major Boris Kirillov, had managed to establish contact with a political talent within the Labour Party who was predicted to have a bright political future. The contact was given the name Steklov, but his identity was unknown.
Butkov’s Norwegian debriefing officer, Einar Brusletto, implored Butkov to try to uncover the identity behind the alias Steklov. Butkov returned home to Moscow on a holiday in December 1989:
“During an uninterrupted moment in an act which can only be described as very daring and courageous, he managed to extract Steklov’s folder from the safe inside the KGB headquarters. The name was sensational: Jens Stoltenberg.”
At the time Stoltenberg was about to be selected for the Norwegian Defence Commission. Receiving classified information from this commission would have been a big coup for the KGB.
“Butkov learnt during the brief time he was able to peruse Steklov’s folder that it had been established in early 1989. He also discovered that the folder was a DOR folder — Delo Operativnoj Razrabotki. These folders were normally reserved for individuals in an advanced stage of the grooming process, or who were already among KGB’s confidential contacts.”
‘Young’ Stoltenberg was a person the KGB was grooming for the future. National intelligence agencies are meticulous and patient. It is fair to assume that Stoltenberg with his family background and his prospects was a contact the KGB valued highly.
At the time Stoltenberg was in the midst of a security clearance from POT, and it was during this process that Stoltenberg mentioned that he had been contacted by Kirillov (who posed as a cultural attaché). Upon learning this POT warned Stoltenberg not to have any more meetings with him. Jacobsen writes that nothing is known about these sensitive conversations between Stoltenberg and POT.
But it doesn’t evoke confidence that Stoltenberg’s contacts with the KGB are still being treated as if they were radioactive.
Stoltenberg himself, high ranking people within the Labour Party, and colleagues in the press reacted strongly when Alf R. Jacobsen exposed Stoltenberg’s Steklov identity in a NRK Brennpunkt program [Norwegian investigative news program] in 2000.
This unified negative front is politically very important. It paints a picture of a network that doesn’t wish to draw attention to the KGB links. But if they were harmless, why all the secrecy and censorship?
Could it be because several other individuals from the Norwegian Labour Party, besides Jens Stoltenberg, for years also nurtured close links with the KGB?
‘The massive negative feedback that I as the executive producer of Brennpunkt received when the story broke in December 2000 was enormous. I was attacked, not only by Jens Stoltenberg himself, who had become Prime minister only months earlier, but also by a majority of leading political commentators from the media. My own boss Einar Førde, who himself had dubious links with the KGB, gave me the cold shoulder, and the NRK journalists that were loyal to the Labour Party tried to minimise the story, and even suggested that it was a malicious fabrication.”
This leads us to the conclusion that powerful forces don’t want to release certain type of information. Why, what do they have to hide?
Would the information from Mitrokhin’s archives have scuttled the careers of others who are still active in the Labour Party?
“Did he have copies of Dudin’s (Reiulf Steen’s) folder which contained 250 pages, or of Juri’s (Torbjørn Jaglands)?”
One can speculate. The Labour Party has maintained a culture they promised to rid themselves of. Is it the legacy after Håkon Lie and the anti-communists, or is it the legacy after Lenin, and the political culture that felt a strong affinity with Moscow, despite ideological differences?
One senses that leading Labour Party politicians have been involved in games they thought they could master, but in the end they were no match for the KGB, which was far more professional. There is probably damaging material in the old KGB archives that several Labour politicians don’t want unearthed because it couldn’t stand the light of day.
The Labour Party insist that there was nothing irregular or subversive with the relations they kept with the KGB, but if that is the case then why is it essential to censor any new revelations about it?
High-ranking Labour Party members close links with the KGB is one of the biggest taboos in Norwegian politics.
The Observer also includes two links to the original articles in Dagbladet (in Norwegian). He says the content in these articles is quite explosive: