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).
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).
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.