It was Dec. 13, a bitterly cold day in Vienna. Svein Erling Haugan, a Norwegian, stood outside the Opera House, the collar of his overcoat pulled up around his ears. He was waiting for his KGB contact.
When he didn't show up, a frozen, angry Haugan was not really too surprised. For Arkady Beloserov was one of the most incompetent spies he had encountered in his seven years as a double agent.
Sure enough, a quick phone call revealed that Beloserov's English was so poor he had confused Dec. 13 with Dec. 30.
Haugan just shrugged his frozen shoulders. At a previous clandestine meeting in the Austrian capital the bungling Beloserov had walked anxiously around the back streets of Vienna carrying a case full of documents delivered by Haugan, failing three times to rendezvous with another Soviet agent who was to have copied them.
Right from the start the cool, sardonic Haugan made a laughingstock of the feared KGB.
It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely choice than Haugan as a KGB recruit. Educated in the United States and a leading member of the very right-wing Norwegian Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet), he is virulently anticommunist. But he publishes the Norwegian Oil Review and the Soviets are very interested in oil.
No sooner had he been approached by a KGB man from the Soviet embassy in Oslo at the Offshore North Sea Exhibition in Stavanger, Norway, in 1974 than Haugan went to -Norwegian Counterintelligence.
''The idea of working against a Russian spy network in Norway appealed to me, '' Haugan said. ''I'm no sympathizer of the communist system - quite the opposite. If we can't stop them at some point, at some time, we could eventually be rendered powerless in the hands of a single-minded giant. The communist aim is, after all, to conquer the world.''
Such were the thoughts of the new agent who was -recruited by KGB man Alexander Dementyev, a member of the trade delegation at the Soviet embassy in Oslo.
Dementyev, who was living at the time in (appropriately) Incognito Road, Oslo , wined and dined Haugan at The Cossack, a Russian restaurant, where his schemings were accompanied by Russian folk music.
Haugan fed Dementyev the line that he was only in the spying game for the money. Dementyev obliged by giving him tips on how a smart KGB operative beats the bureaucratic Soviet system.
''Never give me copies of articles,'' he told his new recruit. ''Type them out so that it looks like original material.''
''It would then appear to be more valuable and would be better paid,'' Haugan explained later.
He was an apt pupil.
When Dementyev asked for Norwegian information on Chinese offshore oil exploration, Haugan subscribed to oil and shipping publications from Asia, cutting and pasting up material on China ''until it looked like a thorough analysis written by a specialist.''
He was asked for information on Norwegian oil exploration in the Barents Sea, where there is a border dispute with the Soviet Union, and for details of a pocket of natural gas found on Spitsbergen (a Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean) in 1974. He duly retyped or translated articles that would have been freely available had the KGB had the gumption to ask for them.
When he was asked for actual classified information, such as details of ''prolon,'' a fireproof plastic specially developed for military use in the United States, Haugan always stalled.
In addition to cash payments, he received bottles of whiskey, cognac, and vodka and cartons of cigarettes. But Dementyev took a ''commission'' on all cash payments. ''It is natural to assume that this went straight into his own pocket, '' says Haugan, who was given the code name of ''Jan Jansen'' by the Russians. ''One thing is sure, you don't get rich from being a KGB agent,'' says Haugan, who still keeps a one-ruble coin he was given by Dementyev.
However, he was given a digital watch - ''a very useful gift, seen from Dementyev's point of view, as I was always late for meetings and excused myself by saying that I had no watch.'' Despite friction over payments, he grew to almost like Dementyev. ''He had a friendly face. It was easy to like him and he encouraged the idea of developing a personal friendship. In the beginning I looked upon him rather like a kind uncle whom I enjoyed talking with.''
Dementyev even offered to finance an office for Haugan's Norwegian Oil Review in Hong Kong so that information could be obtained on Chinese offshore oil exploration.
A temporary break in Haugan's relationship with Dementyev came in January 1977 when the Russian and six of his colleagues were expelled from Norway as a result of another, unconnected, spy case. Then the meetings continued in Vienna. It was during one of these that Haugan was taken to the Russian residential building. Thinking his cover as a double agent had been ''blown,'' the Norwegian feared he was about to be whisked across the border into Czechoslovakia for interrogation. Instead Dementyev produced caviar and several bottles of vodka.
Haugan's relationship with Dementyev became so good, and the KGB man showed so much interest in the West, that Norwegian Counterintelligence decided the Russian might be ripe for ''turning.''
Unfortunately in 1979 when the plan to ''turn'' Dementyev himself into a double agent had been worked out in detail, he was replaced by the higher-ranking but much more incompetent Arkady Beloserov.
By this time Haugan was taping conversations with his KGB contacts on a recorder sewn into a special jacket bought for him by Norwegian Counterintelligence. (He had asked for a suit but had been told the budget wouldn't cover it.)
It was in one of these taped conversations during a stroll in Vienna that Beloserov suggested Haugan work for the KGB in the US.
''You will probably have the possibility of doing certain things for us during your visits to the US,'' said the Russian in broken English. ''We should definitely discuss the contacts you have in the US and where we can get the best information.''
Looking back on it all now, Haugan says: ''The KGB must have thought of me as the perfect steppingstone to building up a chain of agents.
''The Norwegian Oil Review dealt precisely with the subjects they were most interested in. It would have been logical to expand and establish branch offices in other countries, for example, China, England, the USA, or wherever.
''The KGB wanted to set up a spy center. I would have been in the position to do this without anyone else knowing about it.''
However, after a series of blunders by the unfortunate Beloserov, Haugan finally severed his relations with the Soviet Union's secret service on Dec. 15, 1980.
The following year the Soviet ambassador was summoned to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and told that three ''diplomats'' on his staff were personae non gratae in Norway. They were KGB men who had helped to set up Haugan's meetings with Dementyev and Beloserov.
The date was appropriate: April 1, 1981 - All Fools' Day.
Haugan received 76,000 Norwegian kroner (about $13,000) from the KGB for his services.
Although he has ceased his activities as a spy, he is still making money out of the KGB. He has written a book about his experiences titled ''I Was a Double Agent'' (''Jag Var Dobbelt-Agent''). It is published by Haugan's own company, the Norwegian Oil Review, and is on its way to becoming a best seller in Oslo.
Being a KGB agent worked wonders for Svein Erling Haugan, but not for the spymasters in Moscow. Their comments on the affair would not be printable.