Reykjavik, Iceland — What happens when boatloads of American troops port-call in a small island nation? All the beer runs out.
According to the Icelandic media, the around 7,000 U.S. servicemen, who briefly stayed in Iceland on their way to Norway, drained the whole city dry in just four days (October 24-28). Although the American deployment was well-known in advance, and the people of Reykjavik had been briefed about the arrival of the troops, the beer stock proved wholly inadequate. The situation got so bad that the local bars and pubs had to request emergency support from Iceland’s breweries.
The deployment to Iceland is part of the U.S. contribution to Trident Juncture 18, NATO’s largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War.
“Yes, that was gorgeous. This was an incredible number,” said Nuno Alexandre Bentim Servo, a bar owner. He added that since there will be more than 40,000 allied troops in Norway, Sweden, and Finland for the exercise — and judging by the performance of the small number of Americans that stopped by — it is paramount that additional beer supplies be sent to support the troops.
“The American soldiers were very willing to sample different microbrews as well as the more popular standard lagers,” added a local pub owner.
Interestingly, beer was banned in Iceland until March 1989 — there’s a Beer Day that celebrates the end of the ban.
Trident Juncture 18, which is already underway, involves close to 45,000 soldiers with over 10,000 combat vehicles, 150 aircraft, and 60 ships. Participants come from NATO’s 29 nations, in addition to troops from Sweden and Finland. Although the two Scandinavian countries aren’t NATO members, they have been close partners with the organisation; Russia’s resurgent aggressiveness in the region is encouraging them to get closer to NATO.
Historically, Iceland has been an important U.S. ally and NATO member. American involvement with the small island nation began during the Second World War. Iceland’s geographic position, in between North American and Great Britain, made it an ideal place to station aircraft that would protect the precious supply convoys that proved Britain’s lifeline and allowed her to stay in the fight.
After the end of WWII, Iceland didn’t lose its strategic significance. Its proximity to the Arctic Circle and the Greenland-Iceland Gap, which the Soviet Northern Fleet had to navigate to enter the Atlantic Ocean, made it an ideal place to deploy surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft. Today, Iceland still remains relevant. Russian activity in the Arctic, combined with the rumoured vast natural resources that lie underneath the melting ice, suggest that the region will once again become hot.