Iceland, NATO and the prospect of neutrality.


As the struggle between the Land powers and the Sea powers continue around the world an interesting thing is happening on Iceland which has served as in important geostrategic point in the Atlanticist periphery since the Second World War.

During World War Two the U.S. Army established a naval air station on the island which served as a hub for the flow of supplies and personnel to the Allied war effort in Europe. After the conclusion of the war the American’s left. In 1949 Iceland became a founding member of NATO and two years later American soldiers were permanently stationed on the island as part of the containment strategy against the USSR and its allies.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s the first steps were taken to remove the presence of foreign military personnel from Icelandic territory and in 2006 the last American troops left the island.

Currently, Iceland is the only NATO member state without a standing army but her strength lies in her strategic location in the centre of the “GIUK gap” as well as being close to the Arctic which gives it great geopolitical value.

NATO still conducts military exercises from Iceland with the latest being Operation Trident Juncture which took place in the autumn of 2018 which also included Norwegian territory. Around 50,000 soldiers from 29 NATO member states were involved. The exercises near the Arctic come as a consequence of the Atlanticist powers renewed interest in monitoring and containing the Russian and Chinese presence in the North Atlantic region.   

These things considered, it is interesting to note that the current Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir of the Left-Green Movement, has publicly expressed the her party would prefer to see her country leave NATO in favour of neutrality. Said Katrin Jakobsdottir; “My party’s position is that we are against Iceland’s membership of NATO,” […] “However, we are the only party in Iceland’s parliament that holds that position, and Iceland now has a national security policy which passed through Parliament in 2016. We — as the Left-Green party — recognize that there is a strong majority in Iceland in support of our NATO membership, but we don’t favour for instance the idea of a permanent military presence here in Iceland” (Breum: 2nd November 2018).

This position by a leading Icelandic politician should be welcomed by those who seek to limit the peripheral area of Atlanticist hegemony. Furthermore, if the pacifist position of the Left-Green Movement could gain more followers among the population and help sway the other political parties towards neutrality it is likely that Iceland could become the “Switzerland of the North” and function as a Nordic buffer zone between “Western Atlanticism” and “Eurasian Continentalism”.  


Breum, Martin. “Iceland is key to NATO – but Iceland’s prime minister worries about militarization in the North Atlantic” Arctic Today. Arctic Today, 2nd November 2018. Web. Nov 3, 2018.