Although one of the least vulnerable countries in Europe to missile attacks from Russia, Portugal will be all the safer thanks to a new defence system initiated by Germany.
Fifteen countries have joined the proposed “European Sky Shield Initiative” that is to be set up using a common procurement of defence equipment. The system will enable the interception of any Russian cruise or ballistic missiles armed with conventional or nuclear warheads.
The co-operative arrangement comes at a time when the war in Ukraine is escalating, and President Putin has made thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons against Europe and the United States.
The countries participating in the new shield project are Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. All are NATO members except Finland, which is still in the process of joining.
Defence ministers signed a letter of intent in Brussels last Thursday to provide what has been described as “a fully interoperable and seamlessly integrated system that will significantly improve NATO’s ability to defend against all air and missile threats”.
Furthermore, it will offer a multinational and multifaceted approach, which will offer “a flexible and scalable” way for European countries to strengthen their defence in an efficient and cost-effective manner, according to a NATO statement. The system is expected to make use of a combination of Israeli, US and German missile interception equipment.
So far, neither Portugal nor Spain has been formally requested to participate in the project, presumably because of their relatively distant location, but Spain has said it would certainly consider doing so if asked. Portugal might do so too as it is well known to be an enthusiastically committed founder member of NATO. France and Poland have opted out as they have their own individual missile defence systems.
While less vulnerable than the countries on Europe’s eastern flank, Portugal will welcome the boost to European missile protection because of the potential threat to its Atlantic ports, or even a possible spread of nuclear fallout from the east.
Putin has said he is not bluffing in making his threats to go nuclear. His ability to do so with long-range missiles are being taken very seriously by all defence ministers and specialist think tanks in the West. The need for the shield comes at a time of growing desperation in the Kremlin, which is facing increasing gains by the Ukrainian forces and increasing anti-war protests at home.
A concern is that Putin is being backed into a corner that may provoke extreme and maybe even illogical panic action. That said, the West has made it absolutely clear that it is ready to make any appropriate response necessary.
Russia has already unleashed thousands of missiles against Ukraine. Last week, in yet another alleged war crime, many rained down on civilian targets and critical energy infrastructures in cities across Ukraine.
By LEN PORT
Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: algarvenewswatch.blogspot.pt