Despite the fact that we are a small country with just over ten million inhabitants, Portugal is a special place with a rich history of almost a thousand years and a unique geopolitics. We have discovered three continents for Europe. Globalisation? We started it, we travelled the world!
Because of our geopolitical position, we organise numerous important international events. For example, in September 2019, we organised a maritime exercise in support of NATO’s Maritime Unmanned Systems Initiative, in which NATO allies tested unmanned vehicles and applications at sea in several challenging scenarios. NATO also decided that the new NATO Communications and Information Academy should be based in Portugal. It has already been built and is now in operation, providing specialised training in all aspects of C4ISR and Cyber.
The New Government
Last October saw a yet another victory of the Socialist Party; four years have passed since Prime Minister António Costa struck a deal with the liberal political forces and established a government, and it seems the Portuguese liked what they called “geringonça” (improvised arrangement). The Socialists (PS) won 36.3% of the vote, followed by the centre-right Social Democrats (PSD) with 27.7%. Amidst the election of António Costa for the new Government, I need to highlight the new State Secretaries, mainly Patrícia Gaspar, former National Civil Protection Authority spokesperson and 2nd National Commander of the National Emergency and Civil Protection Command of the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority. Antero Luis, a former SIS Portuguese Internal Intelligence Service Director and a former judge, will now be the Assistant Secretary of State of Internal Administration. Jorge Seguro Sanchez, the former National Defence Inspector General, will become the number two of the MoD, which will continue to be led by João Gomes Cravinho.
Eduardo Cabrita will also remain as Minister of Internal Administration. It is worth mentioning that both João Gomes Cravinho and Eduardo Cabrita have been working on a close cooperation between National Defence and Internal Security.
Investment, not Expense
Recently, in a newspaper interview, I referred to the new take of the Portuguese political class on the security of our state, which is reflected, for example, in the access of our intelligence services to metadata or in the election of João Gomes Cravinho as Minister of Defence, who has a clear diplomatic attitude and strong knowledge of international relations and defence. This shows that the Portuguese State is committed to a new approach to the world that is younger, more dynamic and more proactive.
To illustrate what kind of investments Portugal has made in these areas, despite the criticism of this decision by some experts: last August, the Minister of Defence signed a contract worth €827M to purchase five new KC-390 aircraft, which will strengthen our air transport capacity, SAR and MEDEVAC mission capacities.
Fortunately, the Portuguese State regards intelligence, defence and security as an investment rather than a cost, and the budget for these areas is gradually increasing and human resources concerns are being taken into account. As a final example, the Defence Minister and several generals and admirals claim that 26 000 soldiers are not enough and that we should have at least 32 000. Weaknesses have been identified and are being addressed. Recently the Ministry of Defence has also launched a brand new recruitment portal. I think we are on the right track.
The importance of services such as SIS Portuguese Internal Intelligence Service, SIED Portuguese External Intelligence Service and in particular CISMIL Military Intelligence and Security Center is enormous. And overall, these experts have done an excellent job, especially in view of the shortcomings already mentioned.
A year ago, MI6 chief Alex Younger said of fourth-generation espionage: “You can learn a lot about a country’s soul from its intelligence services.”
And I believe that Portugal has a very good soul.
António Brás Monteiro