This NAADSN Activity Report provides a summary of topics discussed and lessons learned for future knowledge and expertise sharing in the strengthening the Canada-Iceland relationship.
The Embassy of Iceland in Ottawa along with NAADSN, the Institute for International Affairs (IIA) at the University of Iceland, Varðberg (Association of Western Cooperation and International Affairs), and the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized “The Changing Arctic: Will the Arctic see greater military engagement or continued cooperation?” seminar at the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavík.
Topics included: the defence and security of the North American and European Arctic and the North Atlantic regions; challenges to the current global Arctic governance regimes; and societal challenges in the Canadian and Icelandic Arctic related to gender, human security, environmental sustainability, and economic development.
By moving dialogue forward in academic settings, such as this conference, experts in both countries had an opportunity to expand their knowledge base about one another. Iceland offered the perspective of being a small state, with no military, and a unique history when dealing with Great Power Competition. Since the United States’ withdrawal from Keflavik in 2006, combined with Russia’s invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022, Reykjavík has had to reconsider how its defence and security policy is made, what states share the same values and goals, and to widen the scope of thinking beyond traditional Cold-War mindsets.
Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson/Stjórnarráð Íslands
Given the focus on NORAD modernization and greater all domain awareness among allies, there is an opportunity for a greater understanding in Iceland of North American defence, its history, and its future. Holistic understandings provide an essential foundation for Canadian and Icelandic policymakers to discern opportunities for enhanced bilateral cooperation and manage constraints as the return of Great Power Competition reshapes the geostrategic environment in the Arctic. Opportunities for relationship-building and knowledge exchange, such as “The Changing Arctic” dialogue, move these conversations forward and contribute to a better shared understanding of the mutual challenges and opportunities of Canada and Iceland.
Ambassador Guðjónsson, and Pia Hansson. Photo: Centre for Defence and Security Studies