NATO looks to Portugal in face of “increasing Russian activities”

Portugal is to play a ‘key role’ in NATO’s response to the increase in “Russian activities” in the north Atlantic.

How this new responsibility will play out remains “unknown, given Lisbon’s financial restrictions”, admits Diário de Notícias. But the country’s new role will be “important”.

Talking to journalists in Brussels, spokesman for the military alliance Piers Cazalet said the new call to action follows “growing perception” of Russia’s military build-up in the area.

Allied fleets will once again have to patrol northern waters in a show of “diplomacy and military power”.

Portugal’s role appears to be connected with its “great past and maritime traditions”.

The government is already investing “hundreds of millions of euros in the acquisition of military transport plane and light helicopters for the Air Force after having purchased two submarines and two secondhand Dutch frigates for the Navy (which join lesser investments in Army programmes)”, adds DN.

Portugal’s new responsibilities will involve having to patrol alongside fellow allies, with the “importance of transatlantic routes in commercial and economic terms” being “crucial”. And they may see the country elevated in terms of “weight and influence” within the NATO hierarchy.

DN says the change is unlikely to result in the return of a full-blown NATO HQ on national soil, but the renewed focus on the north Atlantic does nonetheless “open possibilities in this domain”.

Allied Joint Command Lisbon – based for decades in Oeiras – was shut down five years ago due to NATO cost-cutting.

Russia’s military build-up began shortly afterwards, with levels not long ago described as “not seen since the Cold War”.

Indeed, in 2014, reports suggested that Russian war planes’ ‘cat-and-mouse’ games over Europe were threatening to drain Portugal’s Air Force of its fuel supplies (click here).

DN adds that reinforced NATO presence could extend into the Arctic as the melting of polar icecaps now sees the area being “disputed for its natural resources”.

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Image: published last year to show what was described as Russia’s militarization of the Artic