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Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK107, ICELAND: SCENESETTER FOR MARCH 31 DEFENSE TALKS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06REYKJAVIK107 2006-03-29 11:11 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0107/01 0881116
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 291116Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2657
INFO RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO IMMEDIATE 0223
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 0195
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L REYKJAVIK 000107 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
OSLO FOR DATT AND ODC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/28/2016 
TAGS: NATO MARR PREL PGOV KPAO IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND: SCENESETTER FOR MARCH 31 DEFENSE TALKS 
 
REF: A. REYKJAVIK 85 
 
     B. REYKJAVIK 90 
     C. REYKJAVIK 91 
     D. REYKJAVIK 92 
     E. REYKJAVIK 93 
     F. REYKJAVIK 97 
     G. REYKJAVIK 98 
     H. REYKJAVIK 106 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Carol van Voorst   Reason: 1.5 (a) and (d) 
 
 1. (C) Summary:  Since 3/15, when the U.S. announced the 
realignment of its force presence at Naval Air Station 
Keflavik (NASKEF), the Icelandic government has made its 
unhappiness with the decision plain.  FM Haarde ) the 
government,s key decision maker ) is looking to the 3/31 
talks to offer the sort of specificity that will enable him 
to tell his party and his public that the Americans are 
serious about their commitment to the 1951 Defense Agreement. 
 Our readiness to offer concrete and credible proposals in 
the series of defense talks with Iceland will strengthen 
Haarde,s preference (and that of pragmatic bureaucrats and 
rising young politicians and other opinion leaders) to seek 
continued close security ties with the U.S.  Eed summary. 
 
---------------------- 
UNANTICIPATED DECISION 
---------------------- 
2. (C) The Government of Iceland is just now coming to terms 
with the news delivered March 15 that the U.S. would be 
removing its four F-15 fighter jets as well as combat search 
and rescue (CSAR) assets from NASKEF.  Governing Independence 
(IP) and Progressive (PP) Party luminaries seemed genuinely 
shocked that the U.S. would take this step without further 
negotiations or a long drawdown calendar.  There have been a 
flurry of party meetings and  town hall, meetings with 
residents of the Sudurnes region (where the base is located), 
and the subject has been discussed in ministerial calls on 
Allied foreign ministers (Norway, Denmark, France and 
Germany) and Russia,s foreign minister.  The Prime Minister 
has appealed to the NATO Secretary General.  Although there 
has been plenty of criticism from the opposition that the 
government should have seen this decision coming, the 
governing coalition,s complete lack of contingency planning 
indicates its leaders assumed they would have much more time 
to prepare the country. 
 
---------------------- 
REACHING OUT TO EUROPE 
---------------------- 
3. (C) In response to what many interpret as U.S. rejection, 
Reykjavik is showing new interest in cooperation with the 
Europeans.  &I think it is clear that in the future, Iceland 
will move closer to Europe and farther away from the United 
States on foreign-policy issues,8 PM Asgrimsson told 
Morgunbladid in late March.  Influential Social Democratic 
Alliance Chairman Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir said it would 
be natural for Iceland to rely for defense cooperation on 
countries bordering on the North Atlantic: the UK, Denmark, 
and Norway. Haarde himself is building bridges to Europe but 
not burning any with the U.S.: he is enough of a realist to 
know that European governments are unlikely to offer more 
than sympathetic noises, and that any European offers of 
defense equipment are likely to be on a purely commercial 
basis. 
 
4. (C) At the same time, a current of resentment against the 
U.S. has also been flowing (reftels).  The sudden 
&unilateral8(to repeat a word embraced these past two weeks 
by politicians, pundits, and citizens alike) decision, coming 
in the course of what ministers had presented to the public 
as ongoing negotiations, is being painted as evidence of U.S. 
egotism and arrogance ) even by opposition politicians happy 
to see the base close, and ordinary citizens with no 
particular interest in the base or even the broader concept 
of national defense. 
 
---------------- 
PLAYING CATCH-UP 
---------------- 
5. (C) Only fully independent since 1944, Iceland has little 
experience looking out for itself ) or, set in a more 
negative light, little sense of answerability for its own 
well-being. 
 
6. (C) Some in the Icelandic Government (e.g. FM Haarde and 
chief defense negotiator Albert Jonsson) are nervous that the 
U.S., with limited strategic interest in maintaining any sort 
of presence here, will quietly bow out of the 1951 Agreement 
(refs A and D).  Others (e.g. PM Asgrimsson and Justice 
Minister Bjarnason), feeling betrayed by the style and 
substance of decisions already announced, no longer trust us 
to meet our responsibilities under the treaty (refs G and H). 
 A third faction (which we believe includes former PM/FM 
David Oddsson as well as other Independence Party stalwarts 
of his generation) believes Iceland should react to the U.S. 
decision by abrogating the treaty themselves and seeking 
security elsewhere in the Alliance (ref D).  And then there 
is the pacifist left (personified by Left Green Party 
Chairman Steingrimur Sigfusson), which never believed the 
U.S. was a good mate for Iceland and has been only too happy 
to crow, &We told you so8 (ref B). 
 
7. (C).  Asgrimsson and Haarde have reacted quite differently 
to the U.S. decision, both in public and private.  The PM has 
strongly criticized the pace and unilateral character of the 
U.S. action, expressing skepticism that the U.S. will offer 
serious alternatives to a full-time U.S. presence.  In 
contrast, Haarde (in the job for only a few months, and with 
his ego tied less tightly to past government defense policy) 
has taken a more measured tone, expressing regret while 
focusing on the need to listen with an open mind to U.S. 
proposals and seek to maintain the security relationship. 
Haarde has been out of the country much of the time since the 
announcement, which has resulted in Icelandic media giving 
more play to Asgrimsson,s tough talk than to Haarde,s 
forward-looking focus. 
 
--------------- 
GETTING SERIOUS 
--------------- 
8. (C) Within this cacophony is a core of career diplomats 
and bureaucrats sincerely interested in a practical 
U.S.-Icelandic partnership to confront the challenge of 
providing national security in the 21st century.  MFA 
Political Director Bergdis Ellertsdottir and Defense Director 
Jon Egill Egilsson, as well as Justice Ministry Legal 
Director Ragna Arnadottir and Coast Guard Director Georg 
Larusson, are all serious professionals who know that banging 
their fists on tables will not prevent a terrorist attack or 
save a drowning sailor. 
 
9. (C) Though the working levels of the ministries have been 
kept out of the information loop of late (ref D), they will 
be present at the March 31 talks.  Some among them have even 
told us that they are excited  to be present at the 
creation,, to have their ideas on defense actually influence 
their nation,s program choices as Iceland inevitably 
develops a more independent security policy.  We anticipate 
that their relatively pragmatic and worldly approach will 
ultimately prevail, in part because a rising generation of 
MPs, local mayors, and other decision makers share their 
pragmatic approach to security cooperation. 
 
10. (C) Icelanders, who lived on a subsistence economy until 
the last half century but now enjoy one of the world,s 
highest standards of living, are above all practical people. 
When they face the fact, as they must do soon, that other 
Allies are not going to leap in to replace the defense goods 
and services thus far supplied by the U.S., they will sign on 
for a new, more evenly balanced course of cooperation.  We 
can make this evolution easier if we: 
 
-- Offer concrete proposals for follow-on security programs, 
of the sort now being worked by OSD, Joint Staff, and EUCOM, 
that provide a &visible defense presence.8  Exercises, 
rotational deployments, and enhanced information/intel 
sharing will also make a strong impression. 
 
-- Follow up the March 31 meetings with a series of detailed 
proposals responsive to Icelanders, concerns as expressed in 
our face-to-face meetings. 
 
-- Remain attentive to domestic political imperatives.  The 
U.S. decision to keep some CSAR helicopters here until the 
middle of September came as an enormous relief to Icelanders 
scrambling to arrange for interim and long-term SAR 
capability.  Justice Minister Bjarnason said March 24 that he 
aimed to propose an interim Icelandic SAR plan within three 
weeks and a long-term plan within two months.  The Icelanders 
will be very interested in the information we supply at the 
talks on FMS options.  Whether or not Iceland decides to buy 
American (and it might make sense for them to simplify 
maintenance by buying more of the Eurocopter Puma or Dauphins 
 
they already fly), we must be prepared to put forward some 
serious options. Continuing our efforts to be helpful to 
local base employees who are losing their jobs will also pay 
dividends in public goodwill. 
 
-- Initiate public and private links such as the proposed 
Burns op-ed and periodic telephone calls.  These public 
manifestations of sustained USG interest in Iceland,s fate 
would smooth the way for a mutually-beneficial follow-on deal. 
 
-- Encourage them to get educated ) and to accept that they 
too have responsibilities for security.  Even with the U.S. 
remaining its defense guarantor, as a wealthy country and 
member of NATO, Iceland will have to pay towards its defense, 
and its officials will finally need to do their homework on 
security affairs so as to be educated consumers.  This means 
reiterating longstanding offers to welcome Icelanders to U.S. 
service academies, war colleges, and the Marshall Center ) 
but also making clear that other forms of cooperation will be 
contingent upon their developing their own security 
expertise. 
 
-- Finally, we should remain unruffled by calls for closer 
European security ties, making it clear that the U.S. does 
not feel threatened by Icelandic calls for closer security 
ties with Europe, either in a NATO or EU context.  Indeed, we 
welcome burden sharing. 
 
VAN VOORST 
van Voorst