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Norwegian intelligence: Alf Roar Berg (1933–2022)

Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is Professor Emeritus of PRIO. See also wikipedia, at PRIO: , as well as a bibliography on Waterstone
INTELLIGENCE / We bring here aspects of the USA/NATO in connection with this obituary of Major General Alf Roar Berg, who passed away on 12 July after a long illness. For example, it emerges that in 1988, during a meeting of NATO's Intelligence Committee, the American and British heads of military intelligence claimed that a Russian attack on the West was imminent. It was a lie.


Alf Roar Berg (1933–1922) and his wife Joe Berg were endlessly hospitable. Perhaps it was their shared experience from the Middle East that meant that their home was always open to friends and acquaintances, for coffee and conversations, with Nordic colleagues, scientists and generals, Iranian and Arab families and Chinese teachers and attachés. Alf Roar Berg listened and spoke in a low voice, and he had little to spare for arrogant Besserwisse. "Top secret documents often point to a different reality than the one we know from the public space," he said.

We should also take this into account if we are not to be locked up in a politically correct prison. With his experience as head of the Norwegian intelligence service for many years, there was a lot we could learn, but at the same time he was professional and knew what he could say and not say. In recent years he held dinners, picked raspberries in the garden and was up on the roof doing repairs. The disease made it increasingly difficult for him to speak.

In the event of war, the Americans would equip the Nike missiles outside Oslo with nuclear weapons to knock out swarms of Soviet bombers.

Alf Roar Berg stepped into his children's shoes at the Norwegian Folk Museum, went to school in Drammen and became an officer in the Air Force. In the 60s, he was commander of the Nike batteries outside Oslo and served as a Norwegian UN observer in Syria. In the 70s, he was at the Southern Norwegian Defense Command and commander of the air defense battalion in Ørland. He held positions in the Ministry of Defense and went to intelligence. In the event of war, the Americans would equip the Nike missiles outside Oslo with nuclear weapons to knock out swarms of Soviet bombers, which, according to US intelligence, would pass over Norway. I first met Berg in the 90s when I interviewed him about exactly this. We've been dating ever since. We could sit together on the veranda in the spring and pick mushrooms in the forest in the autumn. Our family visited Alf and Joe at their house in Cyprus.

Three CIA chiefs

For almost ten years, Berg held chief positions within Norwegian military intelligence. Towards the end of the Cold War (1988–93) he was head of the entire intelligence service. In the US, the Norwegian head of intelligence was then more important than any Norwegian minister of state or foreign affairs, since Norwegian intelligence knew everything about what was happening in northern Russia. In Washington, Berg was received like a king.

He and his wife Joe were given the king suite, which was so large that they had difficulty finding each other. He gave a lecture to a gathering CIA at Langley at a few minutes notice. With five years in the position as head, he came to have three heads of the CIA, three heads of the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and three heads of the National Security Agency as his American counterpart, among them later Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and later head of the US National Intelligence Service , James Clapper, who both visited the Berg couple in their home in Oslo. And perhaps it was Alf Roar's ties to the later deputy head of the CIA, Bill Studeman, that saved Norway from being punished by the USA after the Kongsberg-Toshiba case in 1987–88. [See frame.]


For Berg, it was important not only to speak out against Moscow's military power, but also against allies, against the heads of American and British military intelligence, who wanted to change NATO's policy several times without there being any basis for it. They would use NATO for own purposes. In the mid-80s, they tried to get NATO to accept the claim that all terrorism was directed from Moscow. This was what the Americans and British were doing in the NATO Central Committee, but Berg then said that we had a recent joint intelligence document on the IRA (Irish Republican Army) which said that IRA was financed "from across the Atlantic". Then the Americans and the British fell silent. They had tried to get NATO to put all the blame on Moscow, but Berg succeeded in stopping that. There was no basis for such claims, and 20 years later he could say, also publicly, that he did not "rule out" that the Americans were quite involved in this business.

NATO had to turn around.

In 1988, the American and the British commanders of the military claimed intelligenceone at a meeting of NATO's Intelligence Committee ("NATO Intelligence Steering Committee") that a Russian attack on the West was imminent ("imminent"). All other NATO states toed Washington's and London's line, as they had nothing to contradict what the Americans and British were saying.

The British and Americans tried to prolong the confrontation with Moscow.

But Norwegian intelligence with the signal monitoring from Vadso had full control over the preparations made on the Russian side. Norway knew that Russian preparedness was low, and that the American and British claims of an imminent war were lies. These claims had been put forward by bosses in USA and Britain which would continue the Cold War. Berg had integrity and opposed British and American attempts to prolong the confrontation with Moscow. He presented evidence. At the meeting, one after the other went over to Norway's line. NATO had to turn around. For this he was respected – also in the USA. The cold warriors in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense here at home also had to turn around.

Norway has not always behaved so straight-faced. At the time, this could save the world from a tragic development. It is sad that Berg has passed away at a time when his words could have played a role.

Our confrontational time

See NUPI seminar, 26 February 2020:

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