Treholt, Norwegian Cold War spy who served Soviet Union and Iraq, dies at 80 By Reuters

By Terje Solsvik

OSLO (Reuters) – Arne Treholt, a Norwegian diplomat who sold Western secrets to the Soviet Union during the Cold War and as recently as 2020 warned countrymen not to antagonise Russia, has died in Moscow aged 80, the Norwegian government said on Monday.

Treholt, a journalist, politician and diplomat once tipped to become foreign minister, was arrested in 1984 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The court verdict said his espionage had caused “irreparable harm” to Norway.

The son of a former cabinet minister, Treholt was detained at Oslo airport about to fly to a meeting with Russian KGB spy service officers in Vienna with a briefcase full of confidential documents, prosecutors said.

He was found guilty in 1985 of handing information to the KGB regarding Norwegian military defence plans, including how and where the NATO military alliance member was planning to receive reinforcements during a potential conflict.

He argued that what he shared had not harmed Norway’s interests.

As deputy to Norway’s minister for ocean rights in the late 1970s, Treholt had been deeply involved in talks with the then Soviet Union over how the two neighbours should divide sovereignty over a vast swathe of Arctic waters.

At stake were fishing rights as well as future oil and gas exploration. Treholt was convicted of leaking information during the talks.


He also sold intelligence to Iraq, including NATO assessments of the then ongoing Iran-Iraq war, the court found.

His then wife said he had kept her in the dark when he set off to meet the KGB in Vienna, telling her he was on his way to Paris.

The court rejected his claim to have been running a private back-channel to smooth East-West ties, adding that money appeared to have been the dominant motive.

Blackmail may have been a factor, as the KGB had pictures of Treholt taking part in an orgy in Moscow in 1975, prosecutors said. Treholt denied in court that the photos played a part.

In 1992, the year after the Cold War ended, Treholt was pardoned on grounds of deteriorating health.

The decision by the then Labour government to release him after eight-and-a-half years in prison was criticised by the opposition, which said he had received favourable treatment compared to other prisoners.

Following his release, Treholt made several unsuccessful attempts to have his espionage verdict quashed.

In recent years, he primarily lived in Moscow and Cyprus.

In 2020, he wrote a joint opinion piece in Norwegian daily Aftenposten with a Russian academic warning Norway not to disregard what they called Russia’s legitimate interests.

“Any twitching in the balance between good ally and good neighbour,” they wrote, “can easily have unpredictable consequences.”

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