US Military Returns to Iceland: Cold War Base to Reopen (2023)

The United States has a long relationship with Iceland. Since 1951, when a treaty was signed, it continues to be responsible for the defense of the country. Iceland has no military, but the country’s coast guard fulfills most military missions, and is responsible for maintaining Keflavik as a military installation.

The base, situated at Keflavik International Airport close to the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, was first opened as a strategic US airbase for US bombers during World War II. However, the base acquired key strategic significance during the Cold War as it allowed easy access for the US to patrol the North Atlantic against potential «Soviet threats».

In 2006 the US military left Keflavik, as the Navy shifted its focus away from the North Atlantic and toward the Mediterranean. Now, in a sharp change reminiscent of the Cold War, the US is reopening its former military base. Indeed, the strategic location midway between the US and Europe makes Keflavik ideal for patrolling the waters off the coasts of the UK, Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland. The value of the facility is immense for sending military reinforcements to Europe in case of a large-scale war.

US Military Returns to Iceland: Cold War Base to Reopen (1)

US Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob WorkvisitedIceland last year to discuss the details with the Icelandic authorities.

During the visit henotedthat the country was «…an incredible partner. They have a longstanding relationship in coordinating P-3 flights, and we’d like to see what they can do to assist P-8 operations. They’re committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and they’re thinking about the P-8».

Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson welcomes US military projects in Iceland. «I first heard about this on the news that the US military plans to put some money into renovating an old hangar, and there is nothing but good things to say about that if it creates jobs for workers in Suðurnes»,hesaidin his remarks on the issue.

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When asked if he thought the operations would increase, he answered, «They will probably want to fly some more over here and that is in accordance with current agreements with the US».

It was reported then that according to the proposed budget for next year, Iceland increased allocations for military purposes. It was decided that «emphasis has been placed on NATO member states increasing their payments to the common defence of the alliance, especially in light of security developments in Europe»,Icelandic mediareported.

Some facilities in Keflavik are maintained in operational or near-operational condition – barracks, command centers, fuel facilities, weapons storage facilities, and about 21 hardened aircraft shelters dating back to the mid-1980s, including a large hangar built to support B-52 bombers. US aircraft occasionally still use the base’s facilities. Many installations are dispersed and constructed as protected bunkers. A US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and patrol aircraft also visited the base over several days in April to assess the feasibility of operating the aircraft at Keflavik. Also present were four Danish F-16 fighters that operate from the Keflavik. Since 2008, Iceland’s air space has been patrolled by NATO allies as part of the Icelandic Air Policingoperation.

The US Navy is asking for funds to upgrade an aircraft hangar at its former base in Keflavik, as part of the Defense Department’s fiscal 2017 budget request, Navy officialssaid toStars and Stripes.

The upgrade would allow the US to fly P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the North Atlantic with ease – currently, the US has to fly the aircraft out of a base in Sicily to the Atlantic for operations. A modernized hangar will house P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (submarine hunters). The Navy could eventually establish regular patrol rotations at the base, which would likely resemble the Navy’s maritime patrol force at its air base in Sigonella, Sicily, where squadrons rotate out every six months.

The activities to modernize a strategically important base in the Atlantic should be viewed as part of a broader picture.

The US has stepped on the road to confrontation with Russia. In 2014, President Obama kicked off the European Reassurance Initiative, or ERI, to conduct military exercises and pre-position tanks and other equipment in the vicinity of Russia’s borders. If Congress decides to fund it, the expanded ERI will be at the core of this policy. With the third US Army brigade, the Pentagon says it would be able to maintain a constant presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, plus «periodic» deployments to Bulgaria and Romania.


In the US Department of Defense’s budget request for the 2017 fiscal year, the US military asks for $3.4 billion more to keep this program going. This is more than four times the amount the Pentagon asked for in the previous budget. US servicemen will visit and train within NATO members and other countries, including Ukraine, a Russian neighbor.

In addition, the funds would help to stockpile extra gear in Eastern Europe – viewed as a possible future front line. Military infrastructure will be upgraded. Most importantly, Washington plans to up the number of American forces present in Europe at any given time – including a full armored brigade of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers with tanks and other heavy vehicles. This is on top of more than 70,000 troops the Pentagon already has in the region. The US Army already has a battalion’s worth of tanks and other supplies positioned and ready to go on short notice in Grafenwoehr, Germany. The new stocks will be closer to the new potential front lines in the Baltic States and elsewhere. All told, the Army wants to have the equipment required for an armored brigade, an artillery brigade and a support brigade, plus division headquarters to oversee those units. With everything in place, the Pentagon could just fly in more than 10,000 troops needed to staff these units during a crisis.

In the fall of 2014, the Marine Corps had announced similar plans to update its own storehouses, which arehidden inside cavesin Norway.

The US Marine Corpswill keep workingout of the basesnear the Black Sea, as well.

US Special Operations Forces (SOF) would get $25 million to step up training with their Central and Eastern European counterparts.

Off the coasts, the Pentagon would work with NATO members and other countries like Sweden and Finland to practice chasing Russian submarines.

The Air Force will keep 20 F-15C fighter jets on station in the United Kingdom. It will continue to send other planes to the region, for instance, A-10 ground attack fortresses, stealthy fifth generation F-22 fighter jets and B-52 strategic bombers. And the Pentagon wants to survey the Baltic region and Eastern Europe for radio frequency issues that could conflict with drone signals. At least twoMQ-1 Predators are stationed in Latviato enhance NATO’s close-air-support, air interdiction, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability. All of these activities would require new or expanded facilities. The Air Force alone would get more than $63 million to build new hangers, fuel storages, aircraft parking spots and other buildings at five separate air bases in Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. Another $21 million would go to building hangers to host Navy P-8 sub hunters in Keflavik.

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* * *

Last June Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking at joint press conference with the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistötoldreporters, «We will be forced to aim our armed forces… at those territories from where the threat comes».

Responding to repeated claims of Russian aggression, Putin pointed out that it was NATO which had expanded up to Russia’s borders. «It is NATO that is moving towards our border and we aren’t moving anywhere», he stated. The President also cited his opposition to longstanding NATO plans for the construction of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe that would be directed at Russia.

In a recentcommentary, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, dismissed claims of Russia’s growing threat to US security as «belligerent nonsense».

«It remains the case that NATO countries hugely outspend Moscow when it comes to military procurement», he observed. «There is no evidence whatsoever that Russia, as when it was the Soviet Union, is embarked on a wanton course of global expansion. This is a country that unilaterally pulled its occupying troops out of Eastern Europe, a door closing on the Cold War».

Rohrabacher added, «Obviously, some highly influential people can’t accept that and leave the Cold War behind, their mindsets and careers linked to a lingering enmity between the Kremlin and the White House. In particular, they can be found as think tank strategists and arms merchants».

The US Navy getting back to Keflavik puts into jeopardy Russian Navy and Air Force operations in the Atlantic. This step cannot be perceived as anything else but the implementation of broader plans to launch a large-scale war against Russia. The US and its NATO allies have heightened the already high tensions in a dangerous game of bringing the world closer to the abyss of military conflict.

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The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.


Iceland NATO Pentagon U.S. Navy United States


Is Keflavik Air Base still open? ›

The mission of the station was to intercept and shadow all Soviet aircraft in transit in and from the GIUK gap which passed through the detection range of its radars and relay to the NAS Keflavik Radar Operations Control Center (ROCC). Keflavik Air Station was decommissioned on 28 June 2006.

Is there an active US military base in Iceland? ›

US forces would return to Keflavik starting from 2016. The base was built during World War II by the United States Army as part of its mission to maintain the defense of Iceland and secure northern Atlantic air routes. It served to ferry personnel, equipment, and supplies to Europe.

Does Iceland have airforce? ›

Iceland does not have an air force of its own. In order to meet Iceland's need for peacetime preparedness and airspace surveillance, NATO provides a periodic presence for air surveillance and interception capabilities.

Did Iceland leave NATO? ›

Throughout the Cold War, the nation of Iceland was a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and allied with the United States, hosting a US military presence in Keflavík Air Base from 1951 to 2006.

Is Rantoul Air Force base still open? ›

Its primary mission throughout its existence was Air Force technical training. Chanute Field was established on 21 May 1917, being one of thirty-two Air Service training camps established after the United States entry into World War I. The base was closed in 1993 and is currently being redeveloped for civilian uses.

Does the US still have an air base in Greenland? ›

Thule Air Base in Greenland, the Pentagon's northernmost military installation, has been renamed to better reflect the culture of the region, as well as its affiliation with the Space Force. During an April 6 ceremony in Greenland, officials unveiled a new sign renaming Thule as Pituffik Space Base.

What is the largest overseas US army bases? ›

Camp Humphreys

If you travel to Pyeongtaek, South Korea, you'll find the largest U.S. military base overseas. Known as Camp Humphreys, this testament to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1953 continues to expand while helping maintain peace in Asia.

Why is Iceland in NATO if they have no army? ›

The control of the seas surrounding Iceland has long protected both Europe and North America from a North Atlantic threat, and is one of the reasons why Iceland continues to be such a vital member of the Alliance. Iceland is the only Ally that does not have its own military forces.

Does Iceland have a military 2023? ›

Iceland is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) but has no standing military of its own. The United States and Iceland signed a bilateral defense agreement in 1951; it remains in force, although U.S. military forces are no longer permanently stationed in Iceland.

Who protects Iceland? ›

The alliance with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Bilateral Defence Agreement of 1951 between Iceland and the United States remain fundamental pillars of Iceland's security and defence.

Does Iceland have a strong army? ›

Iceland is ranked 137 of 145 out of the countries considered for the annual Global Firepower review. The nation holds a Power Index score of 3.4845 with a score of 0.0000 being considered exceptional in the GFP assessment. This country is an Active Member of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) alliance.

What country has the strongest air force? ›

The world's largest air forces vary in size and strength by country, with the United States having the largest air force, followed by Russia and China. The US has over 13,000 aircraft, with a significant number of planes belonging to the Army and Navy.

Can you own a gun in Iceland? ›

Buying a gun is not an easy process either, as Icelandic law places strict limits on gun ownership. To obtain a licence for a firearm, applicants must be at least 20 years old, pass a medical assessment to ensure they are mentally and physically fit to handle a gun and have a clean criminal record.

Who is Iceland's closest ally? ›

Iceland's closest ties are, quite naturally, with Scandinavia, comprised of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, having been first settled by adventurers derived from these three nations.

Who is the biggest ally country in Iceland? ›

Iceland's closest relations are with the Nordic states, the European Union and the United States. Iceland has been a member of the United Nations since 1946.

Where is the oldest Air Force Base? ›

Warren Air Force Base. Located approximately three miles west of Cheyenne, WY, Warren AFB is the oldest continuously active military installation within the Air Force, and one of three strategic-missile bases in the U.S.

Why was Chanute AFB closed? ›

Military flight operations were terminated at Chanute AFB in 1971, and base closure began in 1990 in response to an order issued by the Secretary of Defense. All military operations at the base ceased in September 1993, and portions of the base became available for commercial and other uses.

Why did they close Chanute AFB? ›

The subject of base closure had been considered numerous times during Chanute's 75-year history. The end of the Cold War and the reduced threat of future conflicts prompted the government to downsize the armed forces.

Where is the coldest U.S. military base? ›

Pituffik Space Base
Pituffik Space Base Location in Greenland
Coordinates76°31′52″N 68°42′11″W
TypeUS Space Force base
Site information
17 more rows

What is the farthest north U.S. military base? ›

Thule no more: US-run outpost in Greenland renamed Pituffik Space Base. Thule Air Base, the U.S.-run ballistic missile-warning site in Greenland, was retitled Pituffik Space Base in an April 6 ceremony at America's northernmost military installation.

Is there a U.S. military base in Denmark? ›

Denmark hosts Thule Air Base in Greenland, which provides great strategic value for U.S. and NATO military forces. In addition, Thule supports a U.S. military presence in addition to a U.S. Space Force Command.

What is the smallest U.S. military base? ›

Camp Bondsteel
Coordinates42°21.94′N 21°14.9′E
TypeMilitary base
Site information
Controlled byUnited States Army
10 more rows

What is the biggest U.S. base in the world? ›

Army Largest Military Bases:
  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
  • Fort Hood, Texas.
  • Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis-McChord), Washington.
  • Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
  • Fort Benning, Georgia.

What state has most military bases? ›

Texas, Virginia, and California have the most military bases out of all states. The largest military base by populace is Fort Bragg which as of 2022 has more than 90,000 personnel who work and live on it. The largest of military bases by area is Fort Hood, Texas, with nearly 215,000 acres of land.

Which country is not allowed to join NATO? ›

Five EU member states, all who have declared their non-alignment with military alliances, are not NATO members: Austria, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, and Sweden. Additionally, Switzerland, which is surrounded by the EU, has also maintained its neutrality by remaining a non-EU-member.

Does Iceland have a Mcdonald's? ›

With over 38,000 locations in over 100 countries, it is no wonder why it has become a staple. But did you know that Iceland does not have any Mcdonald's? They are one of the few countries that do not.

Is Iceland nice to live in? ›

Iceland is considered to be a great place to live in. Iceland has been ranked among the top countries in the world in terms of quality of life, safety, and happiness. The country boasts a high standard of living, excellent healthcare and education systems, a clean and healthy environment, and a strong economy.

Can a US citizen retire to Iceland? ›

How to Retire in Iceland – Residence Permits. Citizens of the U.S. don't need to obtain visas before entering Iceland. However, if you're planning on staying in Iceland for longer than 90 days – and presumably you are if you're retiring there – you'll need to apply for an Icelandic residence permit.

Who has the strongest military in the world 2023? ›

It said the US, China, and Russia rank highest, with some surprises further down the list. See below for the world's 25 strongest militaries in 2023.

Could Iceland sustain itself? ›

In the most ambitious biomass production scenario, Iceland could support itself and contribute significantly to food security in Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Jersey, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Faroe Islands, feeding millions per year, and tens of millions over the course of the coming decade.

Is Iceland an ally of China? ›

In 2013, Iceland signed a Free Trade Agreement with China.

Does Iceland support Russia or Ukraine? ›

Iceland fully supports and participates in the European Union (EU) sanctions regime following Russia's military aggression against Ukraine. EU sanctions are adopted into Icelandic law by regulations with a basis in the Act on the Implementation of International Sanctions No.

Is Iceland an allied to Russia? ›

Iceland–Russia relations are the relations between the two countries, Iceland and Russia. Russia has an embassy in Reykjavík. Iceland has an embassy in Moscow, and two honorary consulates in Murmansk and Saint Petersburg. Both countries have close ties in financing, which has strengthened the relations between the two.

What is the most aggressive army in the world? ›

  • Apr 8, 2023, 09:35 PM IST. 7 Most Dangerous Special Forces in the World. ...
  • Sayeret Matkal, Israel. This Special Force from Israel is equipped to combat terrorism. ...
  • British Special Air Service (SAS) ...
  • National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN), France. ...
  • MARCOS, India. ...
  • Special Forces, USA. ...
  • GIS, Italy. ...
  • Navy Seals, USA.
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Which country has the best land army? ›

1. United States Of America. US Military has the biggest defence budget in the world. They are known for their most powerful Air Force on the planet, named as United States Air Force (USAF).

Who has the most powerful land army in the world? ›

  1. United States Of America. The American military is by far the most powerful in the entire world. ...
  2. Russia. The Russian Federation has one of the world's most formidable armies. ...
  3. China. The People's Republic of China has the third-strongest army on earth. ...
  4. India. ...
  5. France. ...
  6. Japan. ...
  7. South Korea. ...
  8. United Kingdom.

Who has the best trained Air Force? ›

The United States Air Force – Equipped with the most sophisticated and robust force and aircrafts, the US Airforce tops the list! It is well-known for its size and capabilities. The USAF has 5,600 aircraft of all types, including F-22 Raptors, F-35, F-15 and F-16 fighters.

Is the US Air Force stronger than China? ›

China has the second largest air force in the world after the United States, which has the most significant air force strength. According to reports, the U.S. operates 10,000 more air platforms than China.

Which country has best fighter jets? ›

For starters, the United States is often considered supreme in terms of producing highly sophisticated aircraft, like fighter jets. The F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-18 Super Hornet, and F-22 Raptor are just a few examples of top fighters.

Can US citizens own land in Iceland? ›

All Icelandic citizens, and foreign nationals who are domiciled in Iceland, are permitted to own real property in Iceland.

What is crime like in Iceland? ›

Iceland is considered by many as one of the safest countries in the world to live in, with very low crime and murder rates. For instance, the country has one of the lowest murder rate in Europe, and only five persons were killed on the island in 2020, an unusually high record for the small country.

Can you buy an AR 15 in Iceland? ›

People who hold a gun license can buy semi-automatic shotguns, bolt-action rifles, single-shot rifles and double-barrel rifles to hunt with but all rifles over 8 millimeters in caliber are banned in Iceland, although with a special permit to hunt large animals abroad, such as elephants or African cape buffalos.

Does NATO protect Iceland? ›

Since May 2008, NATO nations have periodically deployed fighters to patrol Icelandic airspace under the Icelandic Air Policing mission.

Which country is most like Iceland? ›

Norway is by far the most similar country to Iceland. Very few countries are much more similar to Iceland than they are to Norway. One place that is slightly more like Iceland than it is to Norway is Greenland. It is another island in the Atlantic Ocean, located between the North American and European mainlands.

Does Iceland contribute to NATO? ›

Iceland has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since its foundation in 1949. Membership of the Alliance and the 1951 bilateral Defence Agreement with the United States of America remain the two main pillars of Iceland's security policy.

What is America's closest ally? ›

Nearest. If Britain is America's closest ally, Canada is America's nearest. Sharing a peaceful, open border stretching 5,525 miles (including the Canada-Alaska border), the United States and Canada are deeply integrated on matters ranging from trade and culture, to defense and intelligence.

Does Iceland have free healthcare? ›

If you need further help, you visit the two specialized hospitals at Reykjavik and Akureyri. Inpatient treatment is free of cost. The universal healthcare system provides healthcare free of charge to everyone, including the unemployed, old, and otherwise challenged if they are admitted to hospitals.

Does the US protect Iceland? ›


The United States and Iceland signed a bilateral defense agreement in 1951; it remains in force, although U.S. military forces are no longer permanently stationed in Iceland.

How many bases are still open in Afghanistan? ›

6 US Military Bases in Afghanistan |

Is Thule AFB still active? ›

Thule became an Air Force Space Command base in 1982. Today Thule is home to the 821st Air Base Group, which exercises Air Base support responsibilities within the Thule Defense Area.

Is Tyndall AFB shut down? ›

Throughout the rebuilding process, Tyndall has remained operationally ready and continues to project unrivaled combat airpower for our nation.

Why is US military in Iceland? ›

Iceland is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) but has no standing military of its own. The United States and Iceland signed a bilateral defense agreement in 1951; it remains in force, although U.S. military forces are no longer permanently stationed in Iceland.

What is the largest US military base in Afghanistan? ›

Bagram Airfield-BAF, also known as Bagram Air Base (IATA: OAI, ICAO: OAIX), is located 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) southeast of Charikar in the Parwan Province of Afghanistan. It is under the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

What military bases are going to house Afghan refugees? ›

From there, the refugees were sent to Fort Bliss in Texas, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Camp Atterbury in Indiana, Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, and Fort Pickett, Fort Lee and Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

How many Afghans are on US bases? ›

Sayed is one of more than 74,000 Afghans now living across the US after being housed on military bases for months following the chaotic Kabul evacuation in August last year.

What is the oldest Air Base in the US? ›

Warren AFB, the oldest continuously active military installation in the USAF. On 1 October 1969, the base was added to the National Register of Historic Places and on 15 May 1975 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Is Loring Air Force Base still active? ›

LIMESTONE, Maine — Plans have been announced to develop the site of the former Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County, which is slated to become a hub booming with new business and development. The base was decommissioned and has largely been vacant since 1994.

What is the largest U.S. Air Base overseas? ›

Camp Humphreys

If you travel to Pyeongtaek, South Korea, you'll find the largest U.S. military base overseas. Known as Camp Humphreys, this testament to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1953 continues to expand while helping maintain peace in Asia.

What is the busiest Air Force base? ›

Travis Air Force Base is the busiest Air Force Base in the US, in regards to the handling of cargo and passengers, and is also well regarded for delivering humanitarian aid throughout the world.

What happened to Myrtle Beach AFB? ›

A decade later the air force constructed an A-10 simulator facility on the base. By the late 1980s the facility had 3,600 active-duty military and five hundred civilian personnel. As a result of cuts to military spending brought on by the end of the cold war, Myrtle Beach AFB was closed in 1993.

Is Grand Forks AFB still open? ›

It was designated as Cavalier AFS 48°43′29″N 097°53′58″W (57.8 miles (93 km) north-northwest of the base), and remains active. It is operated by the Air Force Space Command 10th Space Warning Squadron (10th SWS).

Which NATO country has no army? ›

Iceland, unique among NATO Allies, does not have a military. Icelanders have long been proud of their country's pacifist tradition, which goes back further than its independence from Denmark in 1944. So the decision to join the Alliance as a founding member in 1949 was controversial.


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