Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, said the US plan would add a new tier of security to the defense of the North Atlantic island.
"The US proposal for Keflavik is welcome, but we have had no talks about increased operations from there. Should more flights and operations happen, then this is already covered under our current defense agreements with the US," said Gunnlaugsson.
Cmdr. Jon Guonason, base commander of Keflavik Air Base, gestures toward a historical marker commemorating the USAF 667 Aircraft Control and Warnings Squadron which occupied the base for many decades as Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work receives a tour on Sept. 7, 2015, in Keflavik, Iceland.
Photo Credit: Glenn Fawcett/DoD
The Navy's decision to withdraw from Iceland in 2006 happened against a backdrop that saw the US shift its operational focus in Europe away from the North Atlantic and toward the Mediterranean Sea.
Established in 1951, the Keflavik Naval Air Station became an important base for the US as it is strategically located midway between the United States' East Coast and Europe. It allowed Navy P-3 Orion and fighter aircraft to patrol Arctic and sub-Arctic ocean waters in the North Atlantic between Greenland, Iceland and Britain.
Recent inter-government discussions with the US have focused increasing on Iceland's concerns over a surge in the activity of Russian military aircraft and submarines in the air and waters around the island. Russian activity, according to Iceland, is now running at levels not witnessed since the end of the Cold War.
Under a treaty signed in 1951, the US continues to be responsible for the defense of Iceland, which has a small coast guard but no standing army or military organization. Since 2008, Iceland's air space has been patrolled by NATO allies as part of the Icelandic Air Policing operation.