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Interview

Iceland's Saga

A Conversation With Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

  • Country: Iceland
  • Title: President
  • Education: University of Iceland, University of Manchester
  • Website: The President of Iceland

By all rights, Iceland -- a remote Arctic island inhabited by just 320,000 people -- should be a forgotten backwater. And for most of its history, it was. But in recent decades, the former Danish colony has begun to attract outsized attention from abroad. After its banks were fully privatized in 2003, foreign money poured into the financial sector, which grew to almost ten times the size of national GDP before bursting in a matter of days in October 2008. More lasting may be Iceland’s potential as a player in its Arctic backyard, where climate change is opening up new shipping routes and resource opportunities. As Iceland’s first political science professor, its finance minister from 1988 to 1991, and its president since 1996, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has studied and survived these shifts of fortune. He spoke with Foreign Affairs senior editor Stuart Reid outside Reykjavik in October.

As the Arctic opens up, is

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