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Viewing cable 07REYKJAVIK247, ICELAND: EXERCISE NORTHERN VIKING,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07REYKJAVIK247 2007-08-27 17:05 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0247/01 2391738
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 271738Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3416
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE 0057
RHMFISS/HQ USAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0032
C O N F I D E N T I A L REYKJAVIK 000247 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
USAFE FOR GENERAL HOBBINS 
OSD FOR ASD/RA HALL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/09/2017 
TAGS: MOPS PREL MARR PGOV RU IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND: EXERCISE NORTHERN VIKING, 
RUSSIAN BOMBER FLIGHTS PUT SPOTLIGHT ON DEFENSE 
 
Ref:  Reykjavik 233 
 
Classified By: Amb. Carol van Voorst for reasons 
1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  Exercise NORTHERN VIKING 
2007, held August 14-15, was the first defense 
exercise   conducted under our commitments set out 
in the bilateral Joint Understanding of October 
2006.  The successful exercise brought new 
positive attention to the U.S. defense 
commitment to Iceland as well as the future of 
the Iceland Air Defense System (IADS) radars. 
In meetings with USAFE Commander General Hobbins 
and Assistant Secretary of Defense Hall, both 
Prime Minister Haarde and Foreign Minister 
Gisladottir expressed their interest in 
continued bilateral engagement on defense, 
though some tension within the governing 
coalition on security issues was apparent. 
Adding to the focus on defense was the 
appearance on August 17 of six Russian strategic 
bomber aircraft in the airspace around Iceland, 
part of the resumption of strategic flights 
announced by Russian President Putin.  Wags and 
serious commentators alike have opined that the 
Russian flights likely did more to ensure the 
long-term future of IADS than the system's 
proponents ever could have.  End Summary. 
 
NORTHERN VIKING 2007 
-------------------- 
2.  (U) In the U.S.-Iceland Joint Understanding 
signed in October 2006, both countries pledged 
to hold at least one bilateral 
and/or multilateral exercise annually.  NORTHERN 
VIKING 2007 (NV07), the first such exercise, was 
conducted on August 14-15 at Keflavik Airport, 
using facilities located on the former site of 
U.S. Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF).  NV07 
consisted of two non-integrated events running 
simultaneously:  an air defense exercise and an 
anti-terror exercise.  The purpose of this 
multinational training event was to exercise the 
air defense, anti-terror, and command and 
control capabilities of NATO forces deploying to 
Iceland.  Participation included three USAF F- 
15C fighters and two USAF KC-135 refueling 
aircraft, two Norwegian F-16 fighters and one 
Norwegian P-3 aircraft, two NATO AWACS aircraft, 
the Danish Frigate "Triton" with an embarked 
search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter), SAR 
helicopter assets from the Icelandic Coast 
Guard, special police forces from Iceland and 
special forces personnel from Norway, Denmark, 
Sweden and Latvia.  Representatives from the UK, 
NATO CAOC-1, NATO CAOC-3, and the Norwegian 
Joint AOC observed the exercise.  Additionally, 
USAFE Commander General Hobbins and Assistant 
Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Hall 
 
SIPDIS 
(lead USG negotiator in defense talks with 
Iceland in 2006) came to observe the event. 
 
3.  (SBU) Participants' and planners' comments 
to Post indicate that NV07 met its objectives 
completely, with exceptional weather allowing 
for maximal training opportunities for the 
participating aircrews.  The Government of 
Iceland also provided outstanding logistical 
support for the exercise, including jet fuel  for 
U.S. aircraft, messing and berthing for all 
participants, and smaller perks such as internet 
access and rental car transportation.  Press 
coverage of NV07 was widespread and 
overwhelmingly favorable, though the Prime 
Minister's Foreign Affairs Advisor commented to 
Ambassador that he was disappointed with the 
Icelandic press corps' very evident low level of 
knowledge of defense issues. 
 
PM, FM ask for help in selling IADS 
----------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C) In the week leading up to NV07,  new 
Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Gisladottir had been 
 
a study in ambivalence, first indicating that 
she would be on leave during the exercise, then 
relenting and stating she would attend the 
exercise's media events.  In the end, she chose 
to meet with COMUSAFE and Ambassador on the 
first morning of NV07, and forgoing the public 
events.  (Comment: Perhaps a concession to the 
pacifist wing of her party, which would   be 
unsettled to see their party chair among 
uniforms and fighter jets.  End comment.)   In 
her meeting with General Hobbins, the FM, while 
appreciative of U.S. participation in the 
exercise and U.S.-Iceland cooperation on air 
policing at NATO, pressed for Gen. Hobbins' 
views on the long-term future of the Iceland Air 
Defense System (IADS).  (Note: The USG ceased 
funding for IADS on August 15, 2007.  The MFA- 
controlled Iceland Radar Agency now bears 
responsibility for operating the system, which 
was built with NATO and U.S. funds. End note.) 
 
5.  (C) Gisladottir made clear her concern that 
after two weeks of skeptical, poorly-informed 
press articles on IADS, the public perception 
was of an obsolete, overpriced system that the 
U.S. no longer wanted.  NATO Military Committee 
and North Atlantic Council decisions that IADS 
is necessary for Icelandic and Alliance air 
defense were helpful, she noted, but what are 
the real benefits of keeping the system 
operating?  COMUSAFE observed that IADS is 
necessary to give NATO   a complete airspace 
picture; it also improves Icelandic SAR 
capability, and adds stability to the transit of 
commercial air traffic. 
 
6.  (C) Prime Minister Geir Haarde sounded 
similar notes in meeting with COMUSAFE and ASD 
Hall later that day, while at the same time 
expressing   greater confidence that IADS would 
form an integral part of Iceland's defense 
policy and relationship with NATO.  Haarde 
pressed for the U.S. to work with Iceland to 
hold the NORTHERN VIKING exercise annually, 
though taking on board General Hobbins' point 
that the exercise does not necessarily need to 
include an air force component in every 
iteration.  Haarde agreed that the exercise was 
a useful demonstration of IADS-AWACS 
integration, and also applauded the NAC approval 
of an air policing plan for Iceland.   He said 
the government planned to continue talks on 
defense and security agreements with neighbors, 
and pointed to the recent MOU with Norway (which 
he happily noted was an active NV07 
participant). Next on the agenda in this regard 
are Canada and the UK. 
 
7.  (C) Noting that it was nearly a year since 
the NASKEF closure, Haarde commented that no one 
could have foreseen how well things have turned 
out.  Progress in developing portions of the 
base into student housing and a university-level 
education and research center is impressive. 
ASD Hall agreed that the transition had gone 
very well and complimented the Prime Minister on 
his government's management of the issue. 
Looking beyond Iceland's borders, PM Haarde 
asked COMUSAFE what he thought of recent 
increases in Russian air activity such as the 
August bomber sorties near Guam and activity in 
the North Atlantic earlier this year.  General 
Hobbins noted that there is a strong political 
component to the Russians' moves in this regard. 
 
The Russians come back 
---------------------- 
8.  (C) PM Haarde's question took on new meaning 
several days later, as six Russian strategic 
bomber aircraft participating in long range 
operations on August 17 entered the Military Air 
Defense Identification Zone (MADIZ) surrounding 
Iceland.  The Icelandic Government was in 
contact with counterpart units in Norway and the 
UK throughout the incident and was able to track 
 
the aircraft through IADS.  Beginning at 0200 
GMT, the first (two Tu-160 Blackjacks) and 
second sorties (two Tu-95 Bears) both passed 
through the MADIZ to the east of Iceland, while 
the third sortie (also of two Bears) 
circumnavigated Iceland, at one point coming 
within 9 nautical miles of Keflavik.  While the 
incident was occurring, MFA and Radar Agency 
representatives asked Post's Assistant to the 
Defense Attache (A/DATT) to come to the IADS 
Command and Reporting Center, where A/DATT 
observed the third sortie's flight as well as 
its intercept by British and Norwegian 
fighters.  A near-gleeful Radar Agency 
representative turned to A/DATT at one point and 
said, "See how important this system is?" 
 
9.  (C) Both cynical and serious observers have 
made similar points in recent days, as the 
consensus has developed that Russian President 
Putin's announcement of resumed strategic bomber 
flights could not have come at a better time for 
a government looking to justify spending at 
least $12.5 million a year to operate IADS , 
plus significant annual expenditures for 
military exercises.  While downplaying the 
significance of the Russian flights by saying 
they would have no impact on Russian-Icelandic 
relations, FM Gisladottir did take the 
opportunity to note to the press that IADS had 
been necessary to track the planes in order to 
ensure civil aviation safety over Iceland. 
 
Comment 
------- 
10.  (C) NV07 was of key importance to 
demonstrate that the U.S. takes the commitments 
we made in 2006 seriously: we and the rest of 
NATO are ready and able to defend Iceland 
without permanently basing forces here. 
However, the exercise also cast further light 
on the Foreign Minister's struggle to balance 
her party's standoffish position on military 
matters with the obligations of her new job 
which includes managing defense issues. 
 
11.  (C) While Russian air activity may have 
been a godsend for those wishing to ensure IADS' 
future, Post also expects an uptick in "we told 
you so" comments from those who believed the 
NASKEF closure jeopardized Iceland's security. 
In this event, swift coordination with NATO 
counterparts in Norway and the UK ensured that 
the Icelandic government was never in the dark, 
and make a strong case for NATO's ability to 
respond expeditiously on Iceland's behalf.  We 
will continue to urge Iceland to build its 
information and intelligence-sharing networks 
within NATO in order to ensure NATO retains this 
capability. 
 
van Voorst