Fri Feb 19, 2016 1:3AM
US sailors salute on the flying deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the US naval base in Yokosuka, 60 kms south of Tokyo on May 18, 2015. (AFP photo)
US sailors salute on the flying deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the US naval base in Yokosuka, 60 kms south of Tokyo on May 18, 2015. (AFP photo)

The US has planned to reopen a Cold War-era naval base in Iceland, amid deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow over the crises in Ukraine and Syria.

According to sources, the base, known as Keflavik Air Base was originally built during World War II and is located near Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. It will be renovated to house a new generation of surveillance planes.

The US plans to spend an initial $22 million to retrofit hangar facilities and restore infrastructure at Keflavik as part of a project to keep P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft for maritime patrol operations in the North Atlantic.

"The US proposal for Keflavik is welcome, but we have had no talks about increased operations from there. Should more flights and operations happen, then this is already covered under our current defense agreements with the US," said Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.

This is while the Icelandic public have expressed concern over the issue and the repercussions of the move.

"A lot of Icelanders are worried," said Paul Fontaine, a news editor with the Reykjavik Grapevine magazine. "When the base closed in 2006, a lot of Icelanders were relieved."

The people opposed to the move argue if war were to break out between the US and Russia, the presence of an American military base would quickly drag Iceland into the conflict.

"A lot of Icelanders are a little bit concerned that this kind of puts us in a situation right now," Fontaine said. "I remember the Cold War… and I remember how these two countries can engage via proxy through smaller parties, and right now we’re the smaller party."

Rejecting the claim that the base is said to be temporary, Fontaine said, "The American military very seldom sends a few guys and then withdraws them," adding, "Especially if it’s at a strategic point, especially during a time when tensions are rising with a potential rival."

He further noted, "I have very little faith in the word of the American military that they’re just going to send a few guys here and then take them out."

Relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War in 1991, largely due to the crisis in Ukraine.

The ties deteriorated after US-backed forces ousted the Ukraine’s elected president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

The US and its allies accuse Moscow of sending troops into eastern Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian forces. Moscow has long denied involvement in Ukraine's crisis.

Moscow says Washington is responsible for the escalating tension in Ukraine through sending arms in support of the Ukrainian army.