Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for the ‘Peace issues’ Category

Weapons carrier wants to fly budget flights from Iceland

Two prospective new airlines have surfaced over the last few days in Iceland, which both intend to pick up the pieces from the now-defunct WOW Air and offer low-cost flights from Iceland to Europe and the US.

The first to be announced has the tentative working name of WAB – We are Back – and intends to fly to 14 US and European cities. Two ex-WOW executives are involved, and funding is mostly being provided by an Irish investment fund, Avianta Capital, which is owned by the daughter of one of the owners of Ryan Air, Aislinn Whittley-Ryan. You can read more about it here.

Then last night it was announced that a US company had bought most of what’s left of WOW Air, and had also requested to use the hangars previously used for WOW planes. Initially the name of the company was not revealed, but now it turns out that the company is probably Oasis Aviation Services. Like WAB, the idea is to run a low-cost airline.

Oasis specializes in transporting weapons from the US to Africa through its hub in Djibouti. Not nice! Their website calls it “Internationalist Air Cargo – Specialist in US Military Cargo”.

Oasis is owned by Michele Ballarin, a wealthy woman with links to Somalia who is also known there as Amira Ballarin, meaning Princess Ballarin. Besides breeding Lippizaner horses there, she has also been involved in many other activities, to various degrees of legality. You can read about her activities here.

Since WOW stopped flying at the end of March, tourist numbers have dropped dramatically – which is not surprising, as most people would have booked their summer holidays by then and those who had booked flights to Iceland with WOW would have had to rebook with another airline. With limited seat availability compared to the number who wanted to come, flight prices increased phenomenally and no doubt became out of reach for the average traveller. Tourist operators are worried.

Whether both airlines will eventually be flying to and from Iceland remains to be seen – I personally doubt that the market can support both of them  – but I would much prefer WAB to the Oasis lot.

 

 

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NATO in Reykjavik

Iceland has recently been the centre of various military activities, despite it not having a military of its own.

Unfortunately, it is a member of NATO, and it was for that reason that military vessels landed in Reykjavik with almost 6,000 marines and the like, who took part in military exercises under the umbrella of “Trident Juncture”. Some attended a planning meeting for the main Trident Juncture exercises that have been based in Norway. I wrote about it here.

The ideas was to allow the marines to practise under winter conditions. Ironically, the first exercise they were supposed to do, which involved landing at a cove south of Keflavik airport and gallivanting around fields, was called off because the ships were too far from land – due to bad weather conditions!

But they did manage to get to the fragile Thjorsardalur nature reserve area, where thousands of birch trees have been planted over the last 15 years or so. There, they practised setting up and dismantling tents in windy weather, as well as running in groups from A to B and back again – naturally without looking to see where they were going (trees grow slowly there).

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Activists from the Campaign Against Militarism also went to Thjorsardalur, ostensibly to study the nature and history of the area though banners happened to be put on the bus as well.

A week after the military left, NATO met for two days in Reykjavik to discuss weapons of mass destruction and disarmament. I was allowed to be present at the start of the meeting, as press, and attempted to get William Alberque from NATO to answer some rather pointing questions, such as “Given that this was a conference on weapons of mass destruction, and given increasing tension between the USA and Russia – and indeed between the USA and other countries – is it not appropriate for NATO member states to sign and ratify the Treaty for Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?”, but although he was very welcoming at the meetings, he never replied despite frequent reminders.

Not to be forgotten, the Campaign Against Militarism also organized a historical display with snippets about NATO in front of the Harpa concert hall and conference centre in the centre of town (NATO were meeting at a hotel a few km from the city centre).

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On the second day of the NATO meeting there was also a side event that consisted of a disarmament seminar entitled ‘Practical Approaches to Disarmament in Uncertain Times”. A number of NATO personnel took part in this too, but so did Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm from ICAN and Tytti Eräsö from SIPRI. I wrote about this too, here.

 

 

 

NATO demands cause consternation in Iceland

My latest article has just been published, this time on disarmament issues and the military, and whether growing NATO demands indicate that the U.S. military might be considering a return to Iceland. Basically, the U.S. want a hangar on the old military base to be upgraded so it can accommodate more P-8A submarine reconnaissance planes to track Russian nuclear and conventional submarines in the areas around Iceland, commonly known as the GIUK Gap (Greenland, Iceland and the UK Gap).

The article, entitled NATO demands create headaches in Iceland, also touches on the role of Iceland in disarmament and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and whether having a PM (Katrin Jakobsdottir) who is from a party opposed to NATO’s presence in Iceland might make a difference. In point of fact, as the article points out, the other two parties in the government have completely different viewpoints on the matter, but you never know.

One point that I could not mention in the article came from a friend in the States, who said that Iceland would have to be careful that the U.S. did not start using the situation for “quiet back-room deals”. Given that the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a report in July 2016 in which it openly suggested: “NATO can optimize its ASW [anti-submarine warfare] posture to ensure that the right capabilities are in the right places at the right time by reopening Keflavik Naval Air Station in Iceland”, his comment should not be dismissed too quickly.

Were nuclear weapons ever stored in Iceland?

I’ve just written an article for In-Depth News/International Press Syndicate on whether or not nuclear weapons were ever stored in Iceland. Declassified documents from the US show that the issue came up, and the Navy had requested the construction of an Advanced Underseas Weapons Shop (AUW) for storing nuclear depth bombs in Keflavik. It is stated in the documents that it is now a settled issue that nuclear weapons were never stored in Iceland, but peace activists in Iceland are not so sure, as there have been a number of accounts in the organ of the peace organization to suggest otherwise.

The US military is also thinking about returning to Iceland, according to a strategic document from the Center for Strategic and International Studies that has now apparently been removed from the Net….. Although a shortened version can still be found on another site.

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