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U.S. Military to Reopen Base in Iceland?

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U.S. Military to Reopen Base in Iceland?

Ásbrú, the former U.S. Naval Air Station in Keflavík.

The former U.S. Naval Air Station in Keflavík. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The U.S. government has expressed its opinion to Icelandic authorities that considering increased Russian aggression there may be reason to reopen the U.S. Navy base in Iceland; the U.S. Armed Forces operated the Naval Air Station in Keflavík as a NATO base from 1951 to 2006. Its location was considered to be of great importance during the Cold War.

“The Russians have long done transit flights where they pass close by Iceland,” Work said, “but they’ve recently made several circumnavigation flights.” As a result, “Iceland is interested in increasing military cooperation,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said in an interview on DefenseNews.

Work is currently on a seven-day visit to the Nordic countries and northern Europe. He discussed Russian concerns with representatives of NATO members Denmark, Iceland and Norway, along with those of the neutral Finland and Sweden, in Oslo on Tuesday.

Before the meeting, Work came to Iceland to talk with Icelandic officials; the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs confirmed to RÚV that reopening the base in Keflavík had come up.

Work then toured the former U.S. military air base, which is now being used as a center for education and innovation, student housing, concerts and other events.

“The hangar built there to support P-3s is still there,” Work said, adding that he wants to make sure it can be reactivated. During the tour, which took place on Monday, commander of the airbase Jón Guðnason said it had been maintained, commenting. “There is lots of empty space here … for new construction and facilities.”

“It’s clear the northern tier is very concerned with what the Russians are up to,” Work said, concluding, “They’re anxious to have cooperative talks.”

Icelandic authorities have stressed that the idea to reopen the base did not come from them and that no discussions to that regard are taking place between the two governments.

In the budget bill, which was presented this week, it is suggested that contributions for defense issues be increased by ISK 213 million (USD 1.7 million, EUR 1.5 million), an amount earmarked for NATO.

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