Canada deferred on air patrols around Iceland, letting the Czech Republic conduct them instead, and Russian state media was quick to pick up the story.
Iceland is a NATO country but, having no military of its own, regularly allows other NATO countries to conduct exercises in its airspace. VICE reports that it was Canada’s turn to conduct air patrols this summer, but they declined, and the Czech Republic picked up the patrols instead. They are slated to be here through July and August.
While the switch went virtually unnoticed in the Icelandic media, Russia was paying attention. The state-owned daily, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, picked up the story, saying that Canadian forces have their hands full fighting the Islamic State, and that the Czech Republic’s last visit to Iceland, in late 2014, was extended from five weeks to nine due to “provocative actions on the part of Russian aircraft in the vicinity of Iceland”.
The story was subsequently run by the English-language site Sputnik News, who also took the angle that Canada was too busy fighting the Islamic State to defend Iceland.
However, Lauren Armstrong, a spokesperson for Canadian Minister of National Defense Jason Kenney, told VICE that this is not really the case.
“As a member of NATO, Canada does not participate in every alliance operation,” she said. “While Canada is not participating right now in Operation IGNITION, our forces are active at sea and on the ground in Eastern Europe doing our part to reassure allies and partners in the face of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”
Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, has been a part of that discussion, telling reporters last April that Russia should not be surprised by Norse countries ramping up operations in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.