Arctic thaw could benefit Portugal in short-term, says leading academic

She is a lecturer with the ISCSP, Portugal’s higher institute for social and political sciences, and she presents this theory in the book to be presented in Lisbon today, entitled “In Case of War”.

In the chapter entitled “The Arctic in the 21st century”, Sandra Rodrigues Balão explains: “We rarely equate our geostrategic importance, unless it relates to NATO” – which has now run into problems, as seen with the Lajes airbase in the Azores ( “This perspective is wrong,” she stresses. “Because if we look at the map, we can see Portugal is very close to the Arctic and, just like the Azores and Madeira, has important assets that could be made use of if there is political will.”

These assets include “the capacity for investigation and development of Portugal’s archipelagos, ports and tourist transports”. Thus the move to classify the Arctic as “global common” – a kind of world heritage area to be used only for scientific investigation.

Balão maintains investigation could limit climatic changes and safeguard the Arctic from gas and oil exploration – which will become more and more attractive as the ice melts.

“The great fear of a significant part of the international community has to do with the possibility that short-term economic and geopolitical objectives could put the planet at risk, sacrificing areas like the Arctic, she adds.

And Russia has stepped into the mix “very assertively”, causing the United States to step up its strategy for the Arctic thaw, she claims.

The US is planning a huge military exercise in the Arctic this year and “has invested in war scenarios”.

A Council for Foreign Relations document on the “Emerging Arctic” backs up Balão’s premise, saying that “competition for resources has primed the Arctic for a new Cold War”.

Another aspect of new moves in the Atlantic that could impact Portugal is the announced construction of the Nicaragua Canal.

What this new shipping route could mean “in articulation with what is predicted for the new routes of the Arctic” will bring new challenges for the North Atlantic sea, she considered.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]