Donald Trump could be headed to Portugal for a one-day visit in August.
Television station TVI says the trip is being “studied by the governments” of the United States and Portugal, with “themes on the table being essentially economic and the (future role) of Lajes airbase” – which has seen activity ‘greatly increase’ since the US president took office.
In 2015 when Barack Obama was still in control, America announced it would be scaling down operations at Lajes. Military reduction’ ensued, leading to “the elimination of hundreds of jobs, many of them affecting local Portuguese.
This has all started to be turned round. Earlier this year, ambassador George Glass classified the airbase as “fundamental” for security in the Atlantic – and it is well documented that the subject of the base was discussed when President Marcelo called President Trump to congratulate him on his election victory in 2016 (click here).
Now, reports suggest Mr Trump will either be visiting on his way to a scheduled trip to Spain, or on the way back.
Either way, the visit will come ‘towards the end of August’.
There are multiple other reasons for Mr Trump’s interest in meeting Portuguese powermakers, not least the country’s increasing attraction to Americans living abroad. Portugal has embraced Chinese investment and been relatively tenacious when it comes to outside criticism of Huawei and 5G (click here).
There is also the question of imports via Sines of US shale gas (click here).
Nonetheless, this story has neither been confirmed nor denied by official sources.
The foreign ministry has told reporters that it has “nothing to say” about the likelihood of a visit and has “no information on the future intentions of the US for Lajes airbase”.
Coincidentally, back in 2016, prime minister António Costa floated the idea that Chinese might be interested in taking over the base “for scientific reasons only” (click here). This hypothesis was kicked into the long grass only last month when defence minister João Gomes Cravinho attended a meeting at the Pentagon to discuss what was being seen as an acceleration of tensions with Iran.