When client states lose their patron

What happens to the foederati at the borders when the Empire withdraws its legions and goes home?  The answer seems blindingly obvious to anyone with a passing familiarity with human nature.  They will look for another protector, naturally.

In an official lunch with foreign diplomats, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson shocked neighboring Nordic countries with inviting Russia to take use of the strategically important airbase.

Foreign diplomats hardly believed what they heard when the Icelandic president said that his country needs “new friends” and that Russia should be invited to take use of the old U.S. airbase of Keflavik.

— BarentsObserver.com, “Russia invited to Iceland’s airbase“, November 18th, 2008.

During the Cold War, Iceland was a small but significant outpost of the North Atlantic Alliance.  Occupying a key geographic location in the GIUK gap, it seemed an obvious place to station tactical fighters and to monitor the transit of enemy submarines.  But with the slow evaporation of the Russian threat, Iceland’s importance waned.  Keflavik NAS was closed in 2006, with civilian contractors handling the maintenance of the facility.

More recently, Iceland has faced financial hardship; in 2008, all three of its major banks collapsed, and its economic performance has been dismal.  The UK played hardball and froze some Icelandic assets, followed by a diplomatic row, followed by a refusal to send the RAF on its scheduled tour as Iceland’s airborne defenders.  Financial assistance from Iceland’s neighbours and alliance partners was reluctant at best, so Russia offered to step into the gap by ponying up an enormous 4 billion euro loan.  There was also talk about Russia gaining the use of the old air base, although Iceland’s Prime Minister eventually shot down the idea.

Ultimately, the IMF and a consortium of Germany, the Netherlands and the UK saved the day by deciding to lend in excess of $10 billion US dollars, so Iceland remains somewhat firmly in the Western camp.  Let’s be thankful the Icelandic President (a position analogous to our own Governor General) has no authority to decide foreign policy.  But at the very least, it should serve as a cautionary tale for NATO; it isn’t just the United States that is rethinking security priorities.

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One Response
  1. UNRR says:

    This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 1/16/2009, at http://unreligiousright.blogspot.com The Unreligious Right