Monday, July 21, 2003

Meanwhile, in the land of Bjork...

Iceland's in a tizzy about a US decision to recall US warplanes and helicopters from Keflavik.

Some excerpts:

While U.S. officials argue that the threat in the North Atlantic is no longer what it was during the Cold War, Icelandic officials warn of leaving their country without any air defense.

"September 11th wasn't supposed to happen, either," Agustsson said. "An enemy always looks for the weakest link."

Mindful that the Bush administration already is suffering badly strained relations with such major NATO allies as France and Germany over the invasion of Iraq, officials in Reykjavik have emphasized the supportive role played in recent years by Oddsson's government. Iceland has contributed to peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan and, most recently, pledged nearly $4 million in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq.

But the flap over the planes "has created the most serious crisis in U.S.-Icelandic relations since the early 1970s, when a left-center government sought to abrogate the defense treaty and oust the Americans," said Valur Ingimundarson, a foreign relations expert at the University of Iceland.

How the standoff plays out is being watched closely in NATO circles.

"I don't think anyone could seriously argue there's still a military necessity for the U.S. jets to be in Iceland," the NATO diplomat said. "But in an alliance, defense is not just about jets. It's also about perceptions, it's about good relations, it's about assurances."


We should probably ASK before ripping ourselves out of a friendly country. In the case of a country like Germany, which followed France like a puppydog before and during Gulf War 2, I'm pretty sure the German people are happy to see us pack up our tents, and the Eastern Europeans are happy to see us move our carnival in. But Iceland deserves nicer treatment than this. I agree that there's little to no need for us to be in Iceland any longer, but I also agree that diplomacy is a good investment in future relationships.

Yet something nags...

Do you buy the "weakest link" argument? I don't know much about Iceland. What kind of national security do they have? If our FOUR WARPLANES leave, are they really left with zilch? According to the Post article, Iceland has no military, but it's not as though our four warplanes are the only defense they have: there would still be a US military presence there.

But to complicate matters:

In addition to the 680 Air Force personnel at the Iceland base, the Navy has 1,200 service members there and operates four P-3C Orion antisubmarine aircraft as part of reconnaissance operations in the North Atlantic. Even with Iceland's reduced importance as a strategic outpost, a senior Navy spokesman said, the Navy has no plans to pull out.

But implying that the Navy could be asked to leave if the Air Force goes, Oddsson has said that without a clear and visible defense commitment on the part of the United States, he sees no reason for any U.S. troops to stay in the country.


This makes no sense. Is Iceland seriously taking a "remove one, remove them all" stance? How is that consistent with their fears about being the weakest link? Are they planning on forming their own military? If so, then why didn't they do that in the first place?

Well, they gave Bjork her own island, so it's safe to say I have no clue how Icelanders think.

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