179. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Visit of Icelandic Foreign Minister

From January 22–27, Icelandic Foreign Minister Agustsson will be in Washington for discussions with State and Defense on the role played by NATO’s US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF).

As I noted in my memorandum of January 17, Iceland’s shaky three-party coalition government—with the Communist Labor Alliance Party as one of its members—is committed by a 1971 election plank to reviewing the current Defense Agreement with a view to gradual withdrawal of the IDF by 1975.

Until now, Agustsson has managed largely to avoid the issue, with Icelandic foreign affairs concentrated on the fisheries dispute with the UK and FRG. There have been recent indications that Agustsson not only wants the issue to be resolved in a way that is acceptable to the United States but also wants to avoid as long as possible the possibility of having a vote on the IDF in the Icelandic Parliament—his reasoning being that the Communists would break up the coalition rather than voting to keep the IDF and this would lead to the fall of his government.

However, Agustsson feels the need to show some movement on the defense question. Accordingly, he has asked for discussions—not negotiations—with Secretary Rogers and Defense officials, discussions aimed at providing him with the information he needs to be able to “argue” convincingly and in detail in his Parliament that he is, indeed, [Typeset Page 584] examining this issue that the threat to the security of Iceland and NATO still exists and that the IDF is therefore still required. Our Ambassador, and the US Commander of the IDF have already begun this educational process at Keflavik. While in Washington, Agustsson will meet on January 24 and 25 with Secretary Rogers, Stoessel and others at State to discuss the base issue. At his request, he will also have briefings on Vietnam and the Middle East by Assistant Secretaries Green and Sisco.

On January 26, the Pentagon has laid on a full day of briefings including meetings with Admiral Zumwalt, AdmiralMoorer, Secretary Richardson and members of the Joint Staff.

State reviews its plans for the visit in the memorandum at Tab B. State’s objective in the discussions will be: 1) to bolster Agustsson’s image as a statesman by receiving him at a high-level in the United States, and 2) to educate him sufficiently to permit his arguing effectively for retention of the IDF.

The substance of the detailed US position on the strategic importance of the Keflavik base was developed in 1971 in the response to NSSM 134 on Policy Toward Iceland. This position has not changed in terms of the major roles played by the IDF and the nature of the strategic threat in the North Atlantic area.

As next week’s discussions will involve no more than an exchange of views—and as they are in effect no more than a continuation at a higher level of the talks which have been going on at the Embassy and IDF levels in Iceland, I see no reason to recommend any change to State’s plans for the Agustsson visit.

The memorandum for General Scowcroft’s signature to State (with a copy to Defense) at Tab A would thank State for its memorandum and emphasize the continuing importance the President attaches to retention of the US-manned NATO base in Iceland.


That you approve the memorandum at Tab A.

  1. Summary: Sonnenfeldt discussed Agustsson’s forthcoming visit.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 693, Country Files, Europe, Iceland, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for action. Concurred in by Richard T. Kennedy. Attached but not published is Tab A, a signed January 25 memorandum from Scowcroft to Eliot; and Tab B, a January 18 memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger. Scowcroft initialed approval of Sonnenfeldt’s recommendation on Kissinger’s behalf. Memoranda of conversation on Agustsson’s January 24 meeting with Springsteen, Andersen’s January 25 meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs Ronald Spiers, and Agustsson’s January 26 meeting with Rush are ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL 7 ICE, POL ICE–US, and POL 7 ICE, respectively.