US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo visited Iceland on February 15th. He met with the Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and the Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson to discuss security issues in the North Atlantic and Iceland´s upcoming chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
A press conference was held were mr. Pompeo said in his speech that “We also seek a real partnership with you on the Arctic, a region that is increasingly strategically important, and we look forward to working with you on Arctic issues as you assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council this coming May. We know that when America retreats, nations like China and Russia will fill the vacuum. It’s inevitable if we are not there. In 1986, you hosted the pivotal summit between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev that was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Today we remain proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Iceland in a strong transatlantic community that we have now built. We’re old friends facing new challenges, and I am confident we’ll tackle them together.”
After the speech mr. Pompeo was asked by the journalist Stefán Rafn Sigurbjörnsson a question regarding security “in terms of security, how do you see U.S. role in the Arctic with the ever-increasing military presence of Russia in the region? Do you see a more active role including Iceland? Do you see more military deployment or maybe reopening of bases?
Mr. Pompeo replied “As for the security issues, the United States deeply understands the strategic – geostrategic challenges that exist in the Arctic, the risks that are there. And we’ve watched America’s adversaries begin to deploy assets in a way that they believe will strategically disadvantage not only the United States but Iceland and the European countries as well.
And so what the form of that effort will take I think remains to be determined, but I am very confident that America and Iceland working together will achieve outcomes. And I look forward to being part of this as Iceland takes over the Arctic Council of determining how and where best to deploy assets – not simply military assets but all of the assets, the enormous advantages that we have by being democracies, rule-of-law countries, all of the things that have made us strong for all these years – to ensure that the Arctic doesn’t become a threat to those very values.”
Mr Guðlaugur Þórðarson answered the same question with “When it comes to the Arctic and the security and defense, that we have a very clear strategy – Iceland – when it comes to the Arctic. We want to see it sustainable not only when it comes to the environment but also economically and socially. There are 4 million people who live in the Arctic, and we have to think about their needs and their will when it comes to the area. And also it’s very important that we see Arctic in the near and distant future as a peaceful, low-tension area. So that’s what we are aiming for, that’s what we will be discussing, and that’s what we will work with the U.S. and other partners to see that it will happen.
And also, because you mentioned Russia, that’s another among the nations that we have worked very closely together on when it comes to the Arctic. And Arctic has been so far, and hopefully in the near and distant future, an area which every partner who are involved, especially in the Arctic Council, agree on the importance of seeing the Arctic as a low-tension, peaceful area where you have the rule of law. And long may it continue, and we will do everything we can to achieve that.”
Iceland takes over the Chaimanship of the Arctic Council from Finland in May 2019 for two years.
Source: US Department of State