Iceland has no ‘standing armed forces’ but maintains an Air Defense System for surveillance, a non-military Crisis Response Unit for peacekeeping, a Coast Guard with three ships and four aircraft, armed with small arms and naval artillery and a counter terrorism unit within the (civil) police force.
During World War II, though Iceland was neutral, it was occupied by British Armed Forces and in 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere.
In 1949 thousands rioted when the Icelandic parliament decided to join the newly formed NATO, involving Iceland directly in the Cold War and re-militarizing the country.
The US hands over the former Naval Air Station Keflavik to Icelandic control
After more than fifty years U.S. military forces withdrew from its military base, Naval Air Station Keflavik, in 2006 and the base is now maintained by the newly formed “Icelandic Defence Agency”. The current government plans to merge it with the Coast Guard.
Iceland in NATO
Iceland’s membership of NATO has been contested from the beginning. The constitution of the newly independent nation in 1944 declared Iceland’s neutrality and some said that joining Nato in 1949 was inconsistent with Iceland’s constitution.
It is argued that once Iceland joins the EU there will be no need for it to stay in NATO because article 28a of the Lisbon treaty will meet their needs: “If a member state is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other member states shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”
Proposals for the use of the former US base at Keflavik
Since 2009 the private military training company, ECA Program Ltd has been putting forwards proposals to use the former US base at Keflavik. Recently its owner, Melville ten Cate, said his company is to buy 15 Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker jets, with an option of 18 more and a range of associated ground equipment for this project. He added that ECA is backed by investors from Asia and the Middle East, and that five air forces had already signed up to train against the proposed Sukhoi jets which are commonly flown by the Russians and Chinese.
While some reports describe ECA as sinister, secretive and mercenary, the Iceland Review explains that the aircraft are to be used by NATO member states for practices but not in Icelandic airspace. The aircraft will be unarmed while in Iceland.
Iceland’s ministry of transportation gave approval for the aviation authorities to prepare to register the aircraft but the decision was overturned by the prime minister, whose office said the government had agreed to look more closely at the proposals but had yet to make a final decision.
Thor Magnusson, an Icelandic presidential candidate, is interested in the concept of Defensive Defence
Six years ago a member of our mailing list sent the news that Thor Magnusson, an Icelandic presidential candidate, was interested in the concept of Defensive Defence.
His supporters included Dietrich Fischer, Academic Director of the European University Center for Peace Studies (EPU) in Stadtschlaining, Austria, who said: “What the world needs is an active peace policy that anticipates dangers and avoids them before they are upon us, instead of reacting afterwards, as is usually the case. Better a fence at the top of a cliff than an ambulance waiting at the bottom.
As Dietrich Fischer says, if Iceland ever elects Thor Magnusson as President, he will give a voice to the vast majority of people around the world who want peace, but are seldom heard.