Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is opposed to a long-term US military presence in Iceland, and wants more information about America’s planned defense budget.
Foreign Policy recently reported that the 2018 defense budget for the United States calls for an allocation of $14.4 million USD for the refurbishment of hangars at the Naval Air Station in Keflavík, specifically to accommodate more P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft. A defense official who spoke with Foreign Policy confirmed this move is intended to follow the increased presence of Russian submarines in the North Atlantic.
RÚV now reports that Katrín has requested more information about what exactly America’s plans for Iceland are.
“I have asked for more exact information from the Foreign Minister about what precisely is entailed in the refurbishment of these hangers,” she said. “This should probably not come as a surprise after the discussion that’s been going on about preparedness, especially in our waters. But I have also spoken with the Foreign Minister about the matter and there are no plans for any permanent long-term [military] presence, which to my mind is important.”
Katrín added that one detail she wants to get information about is whether the US military needs permission from the Icelandic government for these refurbishments. She said that these plans may not necessarily mark a change in policy.
In point of fact, Grapevine reported last year that the US military had plans to bring P-8s to Iceland, with the same mission of hunting for Russian submarines. At that time, an unnamed US Navy official told Stars and Stripes that, in their words, the Navy “could eventually create a permanent patrol mission at the base […] which would likely resemble the Navy’s maritime patrol force at its air base in Sigonella, Sicily, where squadrons rotate out every six months.”
Historically, the Left-Greens, which leads Iceland’s new government, have been opposed to militarisation in Iceland, and have long called for Iceland to withdraw from NATO. This withdrawal is not a part of the current joint platform of the ruling coalition, which in fact states that Iceland will continue to be a NATO member country.