One of the over 150 M113A armoured vehicles retained by Portugal's Armed Forces in exercises in 2015

Portuguese Armed Forces to start recruiting foreigners?

Generals see foreigners as solution to ‘serious operational deficiencies’

Portugal’s retired generals – collaborating in GREI (the group of strategy independent reflection) – want to see foreigners recruited into the Armed Forces.

It would be a way out of current dilemmas (“serious deficiencies in operational capacities and recruitment’) and mirror practices in other EU countries – Spain and Belgium being two examples.

The generals have even suggested it could be presented as a kind of trade-off (in very particular conditions) – meaning recruits, particularly from Portuguese-speaking countries, could be offered Portuguese nationality in return for signing up to the Armed Forces.

In their latest publication “The Armed Forces and their strategic and functional framework. Some reflections”, the former military men point out that Portugal’s ‘demographic gap’ is ‘widely recognised’, while there is a “growing pressure from migrants from other regions to enter European space”.

With “Ukraine in the background, the generals stress “significant changes have been observed in the global geopolitical and strategic frameworks, which have given rise to new perceptions of balance and security – and which have, in turn, forced in-depth reflection on which models to follow in recruiting and providing service in the armed component of political spaces and sovereign nations”.

Compulsory military service is out; has been for some time – and defence minister Helena Carreiras has confirmed that she doesn’t want to see it return “in the form in which it existed”.

But her words suggest she is open to debate on a future military ‘model’.

Diário de Notícias explains that GREI sees “the environment of international security having changed radically since the beginning of the war in Ukraine”. The “international crisis resulting – the most serious in Europe since the Second World War – occurs at a time when national defence response capacity is, in almost all sectors, at the lowest point in the last 77 years”.

Indeed, GREI believes that “sooner or later, Portuguese military capacity will be put to the test by international circumstances. The moment of truth could be arriving.”

Yet statistics show that the number of active military fell in the first three months of 2022 compared to totals in December last year (25,616 now as opposed to 26,130 last December).

In other words, “national defence and the Armed Force find themselves in profound crisis” as the wider geopolitical picture is beset with challenges.

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