During her time in office Vigdis was very active on the international stage, taking on the role of an advocate of peace and democracy and refusing consistently to align herself openly with government foreign policy as the first two presidents of the republic had done. She never spoke publicly about the Iceland’s defence agreement with the USA or its membership of NATO, nor visited the American forces stationed at Keflavík airport. Vigdís had meetings with three US presidents but on none of these occasions did the American military presence in Iceland or NATO enter into the discussions.
“Militarism has brought us to the verge of ruin. This ‘armed peace’ of ours – where do we now stand, bearing in mind that it is possible to destroy the world in just a few minutes?” (Morgunblaðið, 19 May 1989)
The period of Vigdís’s presidency saw a massive growth in Iceland’s relations with the outside world in the areas of education, culture and the sciences. Additionally, Vigdís worked tirelessly to grease the wheels of foreign commercial relations, inviting business leaders, especially exporters, to use the opportunities offered by state visits near and far and on most occasions being accompanied by trade delegations. In 1996, on the last occasion she presented the President of Iceland’s Export Awards, Vigdís was offered a special vote of thanks by Icelandic business leaders for the help and understanding she had shown for Icelandic exports during her time in office.