Iceland and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding today that sets the stage for a return of US troops to the Arctic island for the first time since 2006. Icelandic FM Lilja Alfredsdottir talked up a “steady rise in cooperation” between the two nations.
Throughout the Cold War, the US had a significant presence at the Keflavik Air Base, using it as a base of operations for surveillance flights against the Soviet Union. It was under US Navy jurisdiction from 1961-2006. The US left in 2006, but had been reducing its use of the base for years after the Cold War ended.
US officials seem to be keen to link their return to Iceland with ongoing tensions with Russia, saying the deployment shows America’s commitment to the defense of the remote, unthreatened island.
Congress has appropriated $21.4 million in its 2017 budget for upgrades to the base, with an eye toward stationing Boeing P8 Poseidon surveillance planes there. The planes are mostly used in anti-submarine operations.