US Encouraged To Re-Open Naval Air Station In Iceland - The Reykjavik Grapevine

US Encouraged To Re-Open Naval Air Station In Iceland

Published August 3, 2016

Photos by
Art Bicnick

A strategic think tank believes the US military should re-open the former base in Iceland, as a part of a larger strategy against Russian military activity in the North Atlantic.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) just released a new report (.pdf) on the subject of “Undersea Warfare in Northern Europe”.

“Russia is expanding its use of undersea warfare in a broader strategy of coercion aimed at its neighbors, NATO, and the United States,” CSIS cautions. “Suspected territorial incursions in the Baltic Sea and provocative patrols in the North Atlantic have not only caused alarm among NATO and partner nations, but have underscored the extent to which U.S. and European antisubmarine warfare capabilities have atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

As a part of the strategy of pushing back against this, CSIS recommends that “NATO can optimize its ASW posture to ensure that the right capabilities are in the right places at the right time by reopening Keflavik Naval Air Station in Iceland”, adding, “The increased activity of Rus­sian submarines has led to renewed U.S. and NATO interest in monitoring the Greenland-­Iceland-­UK (GIUK) gap, a strategic choke point that represents the Rus­sian Northern Fleet’s gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. … While overall MPA capacity in Eu­rope has significantly declined, NATO should consider ways in which allies could join the United States in Keflavik on a similar rotational basis. Any NATO footprint is likely to be small as Keflavik is also Iceland’s primary international airport.”

As reported, Stars & Stripes announced last February that the US Navy would be refurbishing a hangar at Keflavík, from where P-3’s regularly conduct routine patrols for Russian submarines in the North Atlantic. Last June, Iceland and the US signed a joint defence agreement that reaffirmed many existing points of the military agreement between the two countries while adding broader dimensions to the scope of their partnership.

Icelandic officials have provided assurances that these recent events are not heralding in the re-opening of the US Naval Air Station, which was closed in 2006. How the US military will respond to the recommendations of CSIS remains to be seen.

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