The Chairman of the History Department of the University of Iceland reminded the nation yesterday that three years ago Iceland threatened to cancel the Defense Agreement were the US to move their fighter jets from the country. The Chairman, Professor Valur Ingimundarson, and Professor Michael Corgan, a specialist in International Security at Boston University, both state that the US government’s decision violates the Defense Agreement.
The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, RÚV, reported yesterday that, in the summer of 2003, the US government announced its decision to move both the helicopters and jets from Keflavík. Then prime minister, Davíd Oddsson, told Morgunbladid that the US could not fulfill the Defense Agreement by other means – a mutual Defense Agreement meant that it served the defense interests and safety of both nations. Each party would have to independently access the minimum level of defense. According to Davíd, in his understanding, an agreement that was unilaterally changed by one party was no longer an agreement.
Halldór Ásgrímsson, then foreign minister (currently prime minister), said on the the same occasion that a certain minimum level of defense was necessary. Icelanders were open for the possibility of ensuring minimum defense by other means but the Icelandic government had not seen any other solution that could replace the jets and helicopters.
Yesterday, Professor Valur Ingimundarson told RÚV that the Icelandic government could view the the US government’s decision as a violation of the Defense Agreement. According to the agreement the composition of the forces is to be a joint decision between the two nations. Dr. Ingimundarsson said that according to a Pentagon report dating from the sixties a unilateral decision would be in violation of the Defense Agreement.
Professor Michael Corgan of Boston University confirms this view. In today’s Morgunbladid Professor Corgan, a specialist in international security, U.S. political institutions, Icelandic affairs and author of “Iceland and Its Alliances: Security for a Small State”, said the downsizing of the US defenses in Iceland was a clear violation of the Defense Agreement and most likely the relationship between the US and Iceland would deteriorate. He said that it was possible that this serious set-back could terminate the Defense Agreement.
Professor Corgan also told Morgunbladid that a defense mechanism similar to the one in place in the Baltics, and has been discussed for Iceland, where fighter jets from other NATO countries in regularly patrol the air space, would be flawed.
“It always sounds good to say that the jets will be sent from another country if need arises, but what happens when Iceland is threatened at the same time as the country that is providing the jets? It must be considered unlikely that jets that are needed for defense of the home-country would be sent to Iceland if both countries are under threat,” said Corgan.