182. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • US-Icelandic Defense Agreement Negotiations

I. Background

The Government of Iceland has requested that the United States enter into formal negotiations this October on the US-Icelandic De-fense Agreement of 1951—including the specific issue of the future size [Typeset Page 592] and shape of NATO’s US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) at Keflavik.

On June 25, shortly after your visit to Reykjavik, Iceland invoked Article VII of the Agreement, setting into motion a review and negotiating process that could, in the worst circumstances, lead to termination of the Agreement and removal of the US forces. In NATO, the Military Committee has reviewed the need for continuing the NATO Base in Iceland and has concluded that, in light of current USSR operations and projected Soviet strategy, it is of the greatest importance that NATO operations at Keflavik continue. Secretary-General Luns presented the NATO report to the Government of Iceland in mid-September. Additionally, Norway has made a high-level démarche to Iceland stressing the importance of the base to Norway’s security.

The forthcoming negotiations are greatly complicated by Iceland’s fisheries dispute with the UK, a dispute which has led Iceland to the brink of severing relations with the UK, which has opened our forces to the charge that we are not protecting Iceland against foreign (UK) aggression, and which generally has strengthened the hand of the anti-NATO, Communist members of the Icelandic Government.

Within the U.S. Government, the NSC Under Secretaries Committee, in keeping with the directives of NSDM 137, has developed a recommended U.S. position for the talks with the Icelanders, forwarded by the memorandum of Acting Secretary Rush at Tab A.

II. Under Secretaries Committee Findings and Recommendations

The Under Secretaries Committee has determined, and I concur, that the Keflavik Base operations will continue to be of great importance to the United States, particularly those aspects relating to detection and surveillance of Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic.

The Committee recommends that we accede to the Icelandic request to enter into formal negotiations with a view to agreeing to certain reductions in US personnel and modifications to the base operations without any changes to the basic defense agreement.

III. Recommended Next Step

In my opinion, the position recommended by the Under Secretaries Committee is sound, providing as it does for no formal change in the US-Icelandic Defense Agreement, while at the same time offering considerable flexibility with regard to the several specific aspects of the Keflavik base arrangements, as outlined in the accompanying study.

The current Icelandic coalition government is so unstable and the UK-Iceland fishing dispute is sufficiently serious that we cannot enter into these negotiations assured of success. However, I believe that the [Typeset Page 593] position as recommended takes accommodation of Icelandic interests properly into account while at the same time safeguarding US interests.

With your approval, I will sign the NSDM at Tab B approving the recommended US position for the US-Icelandic defense negotiations.

  1. Summary: Kissinger discussed the U.S.-Icelandic Defense Agreement negotiations.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–242, Policy Papers, 1969–1974, NSDM–234. Secret. Sent for action. Attached but not published is Tab A, a September 20 memorandum from Rush to Nixon. Tab B is Document 183. A stamped notation on Kissinger’s memorandum indicates the President saw it. Nixon initialed his approval of Kissinger’s recommendation.