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Áhrif bandarísks fjármagns á stefnubreytingu vinstri stjórnarinnar í varnarmálum árið 1956.

Valur Ingimundarson
Birtist í
Saga: Tímarit Sögufélags 1995 XXXIII
The article deals with the first major domestic political challenge, in 1956, to the presence of U.S. armed forces in Iceland, since their arrival in 1951 as part of the Western military build-up following the outbreak of the Korean War. It chronicles one of the most hotly contested episodes in Icelandic politics during the 1950s, an episode that began with a parliamentary resolution, in March 1956, calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iceland, and that concluded with the decision of a center-left coalition government to negate on a promise to implement it in November. The official explanation offered by two government parties, the centrist Progressive Party and the Social Democratic Party, was that the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution and the Suez Crisis, had demonstrated the need for continued U.S. military protection. The remaining coalition partner, the People's Alliance — made up of the pro-Moscow Socialist Party and a neutralist splinter group from the left wing of the Social Democratic Party — opposed the move, but accepted it, nevertheless, to prevent the break-up of the government. On the basis of newly-declassified U.S. and Icelandic documents, the article challenges the single-cause explanation of the government's policy change — an explanation later reaffirmed in the memoirs of the cabinet ministers involved here — on several grounds. First, it demonstrates that the Eisenhower Administration offered the Icelandic government economic assistance, in the form of highly advantageous Ioans, on the condition that the U.S. military forces would remain in Iceland. Secondly, it provides evidence for the contention that the Icelandic government accepted these loans despite the strings attached. Thirdly, it argues that the Progressives and the Social Democrats were prepared to reach a modus vivendi with the Eisenhower Administration before the Hungarian Revolution. The idea was to revise the 1951 Defence Agreement with the United States without scuttling it altogether, to allow continued U.S. presence in Iceland, while insisting on a reduction in military personnel. Finally, it makes the point that the Hungarian Revolution affected the outcome of the crisis in the sense that the Icelandic government dropped its demands for paring down the U.S. military presence in Iceland. This paved the way for a quick settlement between the two sides at the end of November, confirming the status quo in the U.S.-Icelandic military relationship. More broadly, the article analyzes the links between politics and economics, between the need of the Icelandic government to finance large-scale development projects and the need of the Eisenhower Administration to safeguard its strategic interests in Iceland. It shows how the United States and West Germany tried to influence Icelandic politics before and after the Icelandic parliamentary elections in the summer of 1956 in an attempt to reverse the decision on the withdrawal of U.S. forces. It also details the ways, in which the Americans and West Germans — together with other NATO members — put pressure on the Icelandic government by postponing any decisions about Icelandic loan applications in the fall. Conversely, it demonstrates how the Icelandic government attempted to use the prospects of loans and other economic concessions from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States and other NATO countries. In the end, it is argued, both sides benefited substantially from the compromise on the defense issue: on the one hand, the Eisenhower Administration was spared a major political set-back in the Cold War by securing its military rights in Iceland. (The irony was, of course, that the United States paid the price of propping up a leftist government.) On the other hand, the Icelandic government received U.S. financial assistance, enabling it to embark on an ambitious economic program. But, as the article stresses, the episode also revealed something else: that both NATO partners did not shy away from using deceptive means to achieve their ends, means that grossly violated the spirit of their cooperation in the Cold War.