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


  • US Aid to Iceland

The volcanic eruptions on Iceland’s Westmann Islands are continuing, and it would now appear necessary to evacuate everything movable and usable from the Islands.

The US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) has been playing a very active role in assisting the Icelanders during this natural disaster. This role is contributing very positively to the Defense Force’s image with the Icelanders at a time when, as you know, the Icelandic Government is wrestling with the issue of whether or not the Defense Force should be retained.

The costs involved with providing this assistance—particularly the C–130 operating expenses—require additional earmarking of funds by the U.S. Government if this assistance is to continue (see cable at Tab A). On February 20, AID agreed to set aside $10 thousand which will provide for another day or two of operations. State and AID believe that DOD should pick up further expenses incurred in these assistance operations—i.e., some 90 additional C–130 flights at approximately $200 thousand—and Deputy Secretary Rush plans to discuss this with Deputy Secretary Clements today.

Two points require attention: 1) Desirability of continued US assistance, and 2) Possibility of a White House statement with regard to this assistance.

1) Continued US assistance. Such assistance—humanitarian assistance to a NATO ally—is in the United States’ best interests. Accordingly, it is important that State, DOD and AID work out the expenses problems expeditiously so that even a temporary halt or lag does not occur. The Icelanders are watching our operations appreciatively and closely. They would not understand such a halt, and it would undo the [Typeset Page 586] good work that has been done. This point should be impressed on State and Defense.

2) White House statement. On January 29, the President sent a message to Iceland’s President Eldjarn (copy at Tab B) expressing his concern over the volcanic eruption. Once the above issue of operating expenses for continuing US assistance has been ironed out, the President may wish to have a White House statement issued on the humanitarian assistance being provided by the United States to Iceland. Such high-level publicity would undoubtedly be widely reported. It would make clear that the United States is once again embarked on a mission of humanitarian assistance. This information would not be lost on some of our shakier friends—including the Icelanders—and it should serve to further enhance the image of the Icelandic Defense Force.

Accordingly, I think State and Defense should be told that the White House may wish to issue a statement on this US assistance to Iceland, and that State, in coordination with Defense should forward a proposed statement for this purpose.

Considering the tight timing involved, I recommend that General Scowcroft call State and Defense on these issues.


That you approve an immediate call by General Scowcroft to State and Defense emphasizing that:

—the White House wishes assistance to Iceland to continue uninterrupted, and

—the White House may wish to issue a statement on this assistance and, accordingly, requests State and DOD to submit proposed language for this purpose.

  1. Summary: Sonnenfeldt discussed U.S assistance to Iceland.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 693, Country Files, Europe, Iceland, Vol. I. Confidential. Sent for urgent action. Attached but not published is Tab A, telegram 168 from Reykjavik, February 20, on the relationship between IDF retention and volcanic disaster relief. Tab B was not attached. Kissinger initialed his approval of Sonnenfedlt’s recommendation. An undated note from Scowcroft to Sonnenfeldt reads: “Done. DOD is funding $200,000 to continue aid. DOD + State will draft an announcement of aid.” (Ibid.) On January 23, a long-dormant volcano on the island of Heimaey erupted.