Iceland is a beautiful country. It is associated with vacation and beautiful landscapes, which are suitable for almost all types of recreation. But what very few people know is that Iceland has almost no soldiers. This has been the case for a very long time and has historical backgrounds. But why is that and how does Iceland defend itself in a crisis?
Iceland's military situation
Iceland's military situation is such that Iceland does not normally have an operational force. Since Iceland was under the rule of Denmark until 1944, it was also defended from there. After Iceland's independence, the foundation of its own army was abandoned. The Icelanders only have individual units that depend on the cooperation of allied forces. In 1949 it joined NATO. One of the most important conditions for the Icelanders was not to have to found and maintain their own army. When the constitution was changed in 1995 to the effect that Iceland does not have to have its own army, this status was thus reaffirmed.
Iceland, World War II and NATO
During World War II, Iceland was occupied by the British in 1941, who were replaced by American forces in 1941. Iceland's strategic location was the reason for this. Allied supply convoys were secured from there and fought against German U-boats. After Iceland joined NATO and the Korean War broke out, the Iceland Defense Force was formed in 1951. This combat group, which included US soldiers, Icelandic civilians and also soldiers from other NATO member states, was under US command. This combat unit had the main task of ensuring and defending Iceland's foreign policy security. Iceland played a particularly important role in the Cold War between the USA and Russia. Thanks to a perfect military strategy, the Americans managed to prevent the Russians from breaking through from the Arctic Ocean into the Atlantic. Radar stations and also patrols of the combat aircraft stationed there were used for this purpose. All that without a single Icelandic soldier.
The situation today
Since Iceland is a member of NATO, a contribution to the defense alliance must also be made. But since Iceland has no army, this is done in a different way. Iceland makes parts of its state available to NATO for military use. These parts are delimited and clearly recognizable. This deployment is free and serves as a substitute for Icelandic involvement in manoeuvres. Until 2006, one of the most important facilities for NATO was the Keflavik Naval Air Force Base. But not only American forces operated this facility, units from Denmark and Norway were also stationed there. After 2006, the presence of the armed forces was significantly reduced. In recent years, Iceland has become increasingly involved in NATO. This is also because Iceland co-finances many NATO projects. Summit meetings were and are also held there and maneuvers are carried out.
It doesn't work entirely without soldiers
But the Icelanders do have a small military unit. The Icelandic Crisis Response Unit, which is being trained by the Norwegian army, includes people from the coast guard and the police, but also civilians who are absolutely technically suitable for this. The Norwegians also equip this unit for this purpose. For example, this unit had the task of enforcing the peace enforcement in the airports of Kosovo and also in Afghanistan. In a suicide attack in Kabul in 2004, three members of this >unit were injured. Members of this unit also belonged to KFOR, which was deployed in Kosovo. The Iceland Air Defense Unit, which was founded in 1987, is also subject to the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, there is a well-functioning coast guard whose main task is to secure the cod stocks. A special police unit is also part of it.
It doesn't work entirely without soldiers. But the Icelanders are showing how it is possible to be a member of NATO with the smallest of staff. This is mainly due to the strategically favorable location of the island. This played an immensely important role in the Cold War. However, Iceland has gotten so far constitutionally that the maintenance of its own army has been removed from the constitution. Thus, Iceland performs other tasks for NATO and is, despite everything, a reliable partner in the protective alliance. And all without soldiers.