Real-to-life ‘ice Station Zebra’ Signals Us Cold War Drama Unfolding

Cold war scenario intensifying in Iceland akin to fictional ‘Ice Station Zebra’

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – So, the U.S. wants to upgrade its strategic military base at the top of the world to snoop on Russia’s nuclear submarines, eh? The cold war – the state of political hostility that existed between the Soviet bloc countries and the US-led Western powers from 1945 to 1990 – is supposed to be extinguished. But the Pentagon’s allocation of $21.4 million in refurbishments to the base says anything but, “the end.” The cold war rages on – of sorts.

Ice Station Zebra original promo poster. Wikipedia/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The Christian Science Monitor first reported that the fresh allocation to renew hanger facilities and restore infrastructure at the base is for the 2017 fiscal budget. The planned upgrades are for basing a squadron of sophisticated submarine-hunting P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance planes there to help patrol the North Atlantic – and to counterbalance Russia’s flexing of military might in the region.

If this isn’t a re-engagement of the Cold War – what is?

Kind of recalls the 1968 cold war era suspense thriller, “Ice Station Zebra,” a film directed by John Sturges, starring Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine, and ex-pro gridiron star Jim Brown. Espionage took center stage between the two superpowers at the top of the world in the sub-zero Arctic.

A similar action spy thriller, 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October,” an action spy thriller directed by John McTiernan, and starring Sean Connery, and Alec Baldwin, infuses the submarine component into the real story.

In the current 2016 real-life scenario, the U.S. shuttered the Keflavik Naval Air Station in Iceland in 2006. It caught military analysts in both nations by surprise because it was a menacing Russian military agenda that spurred the genesis of the base in 1951, in the first place, not to mention, Keflavik was still a strategic lookout post.

“Having eyes and ears in Iceland brings tremendous strategic value and provides a listening post for the US and NATO allies in terms of tracking Russian movement, especially in the Arctic,” Carl Hvenmark Nilsson, a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Monitor.

A squadron of sophisticated submarine-hunting P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance planes will help patrol the North Atlantic and counterbalance Russia’s flexing of military might in the region. Photo: Boeing.

Furthermore, Nilsson says, Moscow’s revanchist foreign policy, as seen in Ukraine, helps explain its intensified military activity in the North Atlantic and Arctic. Russia has conducted three major military exercises in the region in the past three years: They include an operational-strategic exercise of more than 100,000 soldiers in 2014 and a snap military drill last March that was made up of 45,000 servicemen, 15 submarines, and 41 warships “displaying full combat readiness,” says Nilsson.

It would hardly seem prudent to ignore Russia in light of this, hence the $21 million dash back to Keflavik.

Iceland has been a stronghold for military strategists since World War II when Allied forces used it to track German submarines in waters stretching from Greenland to Britain.

NATO members, including the U.S., signed a bilateral agreement with Iceland in 1951 to operate the base. It became crucial for tracking Soviet submarines that were easier to detect as they navigated narrow underwater recesses off Iceland.

At its peak during the cold war, about 5,000 U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel and their families were stationed at Keflavik.