Published September 19, 2018
Concerted NATO war exercises will be conducted across the North Atlantic this coming October and November, Iceland included. The announcement of the upcoming event has revived what was once a common refrain of the Icelandic left: Iceland out of NATO.
The exercises, called Trident Juncture 18, will involve some 40,000 military personnel, 130 aircraft and 70 warships. Focused mostly in Norway, Trident Juncture will nonetheless span Scandinavia and the North Atlantic, including Iceland. The Icelandic government announced that Iceland’s part in this will be no small affair.
On October 16, some 400 US soldiers will land at Sandvík in Reykjanes, with 120 of them flown by helicopter to a secure area to practice responding to an attack. The Icelandic police’s special forces and the Icelandic Coast Guard will take part in these exercises and secure the area. Further, on October 19 and 20, a conference will be held in Reykjavík on the subject of exercises in Norway. For some reason, this will necessitate the presence of ten warships from the US, the UK, Denmark and Canada with a total of 6,000 seamen on board, with the addition of some 400 infantry soldiers conducting exercises in Þjórsárdal. These ships will then sail on to Norway on October 21.
NATO does conduct regular exercises in Iceland, but usually not of this scale. The event has revived a sentiment that was once one of the more prominent platforms of the Left-Green Party, which now leads Iceland’s government: that Iceland should withdraw from NATO.
Kolbeinn Óttarsson Proppé, an MP for the Left-Greens, took to Facebook to express himself on the matter.
“Military exercises are not some exciting game using futuristic tools,” Kolbeinn writes in part. “They are practice runs for killing people. We, who value the lives of others, should be against this, as people should not kill each other. Unfortunately, no other party shares the Left-Greens’ platform that Iceland should withdraw from NATO, though one could certainly find many good pacifists [in Parliament]. If more people took a clear stance against militarism, then killing exercises would not be held regularly here in our country.”
Steinunn Þóra Árnadóttir, another MP for the Left-Greens, expressed similar sentiments.
“Military exercises sing the praises of militarism and weapons,” she wrote. “They are wastes of money and have a polluting effect on nature and life. They are held regularly, and now it has come to light that more military exercises will be held in South Iceland next month. It’s one of many ugly permutations of Iceland’s membership in NATO. I have spoken for Iceland withdrawing from NATO from the beginning of my political career. Unfortunately, this has been a minority opinion in Parliament. I will nonetheless continue to speak on behalf of peace, and against militarism and what follows in its wake.”
Steinunn’s anti-militarist sentiment does indeed go way back. The above photo, taken 17 years ago, was taken when she and other like-minded Icelanders disrupted NATO military exercises being held in Iceland at the time. She also took up the matter in Parliament yesterday, saying in part that she hoped awareness of the exercises would “increase the discussion in Icelandic society about militarism and military organisations, and thereby raise a discussion about why Iceland should be in NATO and why we should withdraw from it.”
Left-Green chair and Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has not publicly expressed her opinion on the military exercises at the time of this writing.