International headlines were made earlier in August when it was widely reported that Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir would not be in Iceland during the time of US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit. However, since it has now come to light that the two will, in all likelihood, have a meeting after all, we should ask ourselves: who benefits?
One of the stated purposes of the visit concerns Iceland’s strategic location in the North Atlantic within the context of a growing Russian presence in the Arctic. As you may know, there is a US military base in Keflavík, and the Americans have designs on “upgrading” it. In other words, the United States is very keen on some kind of military partnership with Iceland, with the probable intent of using us as a launching point for keeping an eye on Russia.
While Iceland is a NATO member, it is certainly not obliged to cater to any of the wishes of the American military. An increased American military presence here may actually do us more harm than good, putting us directly between the United States and Russia. The Americans need us more than we need them; something I sincerely hope Icelandic state actors remember when Pence arrives hat in hand.
But there is also a moral aspect at play here. Iceland has been very vocal in condemning Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte; his use of police violence against political opponents and his repressive domestic policy, having even taken the matter up with the UN.
Where, then, are the words of public condemnation for the US government? Mike Pence is a far-right Christian extremist who has, in words and actions, sought to oppress queer people in the United States, and who works for an adminstration that has not only encouraged but condoned police violence against political opponents. US domestic policy actively oppresses Black people, immigrants, queer people, journalists and anyone who disagrees with the White House.
Does the Icelandic government have a consistent moral compass? They’ll have to demonstrate that themselves when Pence darkens our door in September.
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