Iceland: Yankees, Don't Go!

By Taylor, Robert | New Statesman (1996), October 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Iceland: Yankees, Don't Go!


Taylor, Robert, New Statesman (1996)


Washington's decision to abandon the US military base at Keflavik from 1 October may reflect George W Bush's belief that Iceland is no longer of strategic use in today's "war against global terrorism". But it is also a belated recognition that the cold war with the old Soviet Union is well and truly over.

For more than half a century, US forces used the base to keep an eye on Soviet activities in the North Atlantic as part of an early-warning system. Most of the 300,000 Icelanders seemed happy with the American presence--not least because it provided them with protection cost-free. No other country can boast as Iceland can that it spends nothing on defence.

There is a little-known history to all this. Back in May 1940, in a desperate pre-emptive move to fend off Nazi occupation, British troops, with the Icelanders' approval, occupied the island--then legally part of Denmark. This followed Germany's march into Denmark and Norway. Iceland, with its vital strategic geographical position for the protection of the North Atlantic convoy routes between North America and a besieged Britain, was seen as a prize worth fighting for.

But Winston Churchill was also keen to use Iceland as a way of drawing the neutral United States into a war with Germany. …

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