There are rumors that Russians are getting ready to block the import of Icelandic food, as a result of Iceland’s declared support of western sanctions against Russia. The sanctions were imposed in response to Russia's military activity in Ukraine.
So far, Iceland has been exempt from an import ban imposed on other western nations. The rumor of an impending ban has caused debate among politicians, as well as businesspeople with financial interests in the trade.
Yesterday, Gunnþór Ingvarsson, CEO of Síldarvinnslan hf, a herring processing company, lashed out against Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on RÚV, holding him personally responsible if Russians decide to ban imports from Iceland.
Gunnþór insists that Iceland must not take sides in the debate, but should instead declare neutrality to protect the financial interests of exporters. He says substantial economic interests are at stake and stresses that trade relations with Russia have taken decades to build.
Vilhjálmur Bjarnason, Member of Parliament for the Independence Party, disagrees. He told RÚV last night that he finds Gunnþór’s attitude appalling. He maintains there is only one neutrality, “And it is that of a prostitute.” Vilhjálmur emphasizes the fact that Russians annexed Crimea and support separatists in Ukraine. “The sanctions are being implemented in an effort to turn this around,” he told RÚV. In his opinion, the fact that Russians want to limit imports tells us more about their lack of foreign currency than their eagerness to wage a trade war.
When interviewed by RÚV last night, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, historian at the University of Iceland, said that historically, Iceland has usually taken the easy road, placing commercial interest above moral duty. The temptation, he said, was to let larger nations fight the moral battle and tell ourselves that our economic interests weigh heavier than our moral duties. We must, he declared, constantly weigh the pros and cons of acting like a virgin with noble intentions, versus being the prostitute who offers her services to the highest bidder.