Iceland, Greenland and the United States

Courtesy Reuters

THE consciousness that the far north is an area of great strategic importance to the United States is no longer limited to the small group of men who began to listen to Vilhjalmur Stefansson's gospel of the "northward course" more than twenty years ago. These men did not then pretend to be advancing thoughts which were entirely new. They aimed at a rebirth of the visions which led William Henry Seward to purchase Alaska in the middle of the nineteenth century and made him wish to secure America's position in the North Atlantic through the purchase of Iceland and Greenland from Denmark. For a long time the concept of the American Far North had little effect on our foreign policy. But airmindedness has brought about a revival of Seward's ideas and has given them wide popularity and a new meaning. It is no longer necessary to deplore the lack of a national awareness of the north, but rather to warn against over-enthusiastic generalizations which threaten to cloud realities. The strategy of this war has accelerated the pace of Arctic progress, but there are certain barriers raised by nature against the development of this area; and political realities set limits to the possibilities of an American march northward.

Iceland is today an outpost of our strategic system as a result of agreements which are clearly understood as having only temporary validity. There is no warrant for our looking upon her bastions as an automatic part of our permanent defense position. The relationship of Greenland with the United States creates a comparable situation there. What, then, are the specific conditions in these zones with which our need for military security in the northern sector and for the development of commercial air transportation in the north must be harmonized?


Iceland is a vital link in the relations of North America and Eurasia. From her shores much of the North Atlantic can be controlled. The effort to transform the island into a great naval

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