Iceland has no military force and their military expenditures are thus 0% of the GDP. Under a 1951 bilateral agreement; defence was provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik. However, all US military forces in Iceland were withdrawn as of October 2006; although wartime defence of Iceland remains a NATO commitment. In April 2007, Iceland and Norway signed a bilateral agreement providing for Norwegian aerial surveillance and defence of Icelandic airspace. As a result of this situation, Iceland does not contribute military personnel to any international operation in the world. Iceland regards itself as a pacifist nation, a self-image that has very positive connotations for the Icelandic population. Icelandic international assistance continues to be dominated by civilian components. Iceland’s membership in NATO is merely a defence agreement where Iceland provides territory for bases and Alliance control over airspace in exchange for basic force protection.
However, during the last decade, peacekeeping and crisis management has been on the agenda for Iceland. Because Iceland is a founding member of the Alliance and because the country’s military resources are miniscule, most of its effort in Afghanistan goes through NATO. The Icelandic contribution is lead through the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU). Under this unit, approximately 100 people are willing to join in international missions at short notice. The unit is responsible for the hiring, preparation and training of personnel and general supervision of its activities. The personnel deployed participate in peacekeeping operations and are normally Icelandic policemen, Coastguards, doctors and medical personnel trained by the Norwegian Armed Forces. At times they have also participated in the clearance of mines and cluster bombs, disarmament of child soldiers and other activities more often associated with UN chapter 6 than with NATO.
Photo: Iceland MFA
Ellen Anna Gaup