ABSTRACT

Iceland’s location in the centre of the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) gap made the country immensely important in the US and Western European defence network during the cold war. Its strategic importance was particularly great from the late 1960s to the end of the cold war period: if armed conflict had broken out, the US military base at Keflavík in Iceland would have played a key role in NATO defences, especially in keeping the North Atlantic area safe and defending the shipping route between America and Europe. The Soviet Union built up its naval base in Murmansk throughout the cold war: the fourth largest Soviet naval base in 1950, it had become the largest by 1960, and continued to grow thereafter (Archer et al. 1998: 101). Soviet military aircraft also penetrated Icelandic air space repeatedly, so it is no wonder that the USA stressed the importance of maintaining a credible defence presence in Iceland.