Journalists were asking the right questions, generally a prerequisite to getting the right answers.
Was this guy set up to provoke an international incident, another way for Russia’s new dictators to stick in the dagger whenever they want? Was he inadvertently part of an operation gone awry?
Or, we must always consider, was this mild-mannered, seemingly innocent Norwegian living a double life?
Frode Berg at 62 was a retired border inspector and a cross-cultural volunteer, someone who worked in a soup kitchen near the Russian-Norwegian border, active with programs designed to warm not just stomachs but Soviet-Norwegian relations as well. In this visa-free zone between the countries, he was one of those always working towards closer cross-border connections.
“I can guarantee you that he is not a spy,” said Kirkenes Mayor Rune Rafaelsen. “What I’m wondering is, has someone used him?”
No one in this Barents Sea port town, a 15-minute drive from the Russian border, seems to know why the police arrested Berg, a 62-year-old retired border inspector, near Moscow’s Red Square in December. His lawyers say Berg stands accused of mailing envelopes with cash and spy instructions addressed to a Moscow woman named Natalia and now faces a virtually certain espionage conviction.
If you’re professionally suspicious, as espionage professionals are paid to be, you’ve got to be wary of these people who seem to just love your country, your culture, who always want to snuggle up closer to it. Just what’s their agenda, you always ask yourself. If you’re a cynic.
If you’re a professional spy yourself, perhaps the whole population is one big espionage threat. On Russian television, a security expert was heard to opine that individuals “too passionate” about fostering closer relations with Russia should be flagged for a close, discerning look.
In his home town of Kirkenes, no one believes that Borg was a spy. But isn’t denial like that common? A more reflective Kirkenes resident, who liked Borg, doubted the spy-theory but asked rhetorically “Who really knows anybody when it comes down to it?”
Will we ever know what they know, the professionals who are supposed to know the spy business? Did Borg know he was putting illegal materials in the post, or was he just used?