The Strategic Importance Of The Portuguese Atlantic Islands CSC 1984 SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues THE STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF THE PORTUGUESE ATLANTIC ISLANDS Submitted to The Marine Corps Command and Staff College Quantico, Virginia LCdr Silverio T. Rodrigues Portuguese Marine Corps April 6, 1984 Outline Thesis Sentence: The Portuguese Atlatnic Islands are absolutely vital to control the Atlantic Ocean and to maintain the lines of communication of the western countries. I. Introduction II. The worldwide geopolitical scenario A. Concepts on seapower B. The development of the Soviet Navy and the Soviet global strategy C. The Soviets interests in the South Atlantic D. Areas of conflict III. What Western strategy faces the Soviet threat? IV. The strategic Portuguese land in this geopolitical scenario A. Introduction B. Geography C. Portugal's future strategic role V. Conclusions The Strategic Importance of the Portuguese Atlantic Islands The islands of the North Atlantic, stretching from Greenland near the North Pole to the Lesser Antilles close to the Equador, have long attracted the attention of the American government and of private U.S. individuals and groups: fishermen, merchants, investors, tourists, scientists, and others. Recently, thanks to the post-World War II cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union--which has thawed somewhat in recent years--the various Atlantic islands remain of military and strategic importance to America today, as leader of the free world. In the case of Greenland, Iceland, the Azores, Bermuda, Jamaica and the Bahamas, each island or island group had a sharedexperience during and after World War II: the American military presence, once directed against the Nazis, was now set up as a defense against the Communists. Therefore, speaking of Iceland, Newfoundland, the Azores, and Bermuda on June 16, 1964, Republican Representative Charles Mathias of Maryland concluded that "when we consider recorded history these four islands have always been absolutely vital to mainland North America."1 Thus, in the age of the intercontinental ballistic missile the pattern of American involvement around the North Atlantic fringe remains as varied as it was a century or more ago when clipper vessels and whaling vessels rode its waves. The Worldwide Geopolitical Scenario "Whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself."2 1U.S. Congress, Congressional Record, 88th Congress, 2nd Session, Vol. 110, pt 10, June 16, 1964, p. 13994. 2Clark G. Reynolds, Command of the Sea: The History and Strategy of Maritime Empires (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1974) p. 105. Command of the sea will continue to be a constant historical maritime strategy as it has been in the past up to the moment a thermonuclear World War III breaks out--if it does. The sea covers 71 percent of the earth's surface; the remaining 29 percent is mostly land mass, generally occupied by human groupings in areas readily accessible either to the great saltwater oceans or to the many island fresh waterways--the major lakes and rivers. The seaborne communications between these settlements have often been a dominant force in the history of great nations. Thus, command of the sea and inland waterways has remained a key political and strategic concern of seagoing people throughout history. Geography is the major determining factor in any nation's ability to utilize the sea commercially and to defend its political and economic integrity from overseas attack. Thus, each nation tends to orient its political, economic, and military life around the advantages of its geographical position. History reveals that this orientation has usually favored either the ocean-maritime element or the continential. No nation has yet been able to afford the sheer expense of sustaining both a large army to control its frontiers and a large navy to maintain control of vast areas of water. In the contemporary period, the twentieth century, the rise of non-European powers has made the two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific of equal importance. Placed in the dominant geographical position relative to rival land powers, oceanic states such as ancient Athens and Rome, middle age Portugal and Spain, modern age Great Britain and France, or the contemporary United States, have been able to emerge as dominant maritime nations. Thus, their strategies have rested upon their ability to command the sea. "Command of the seas, as Admiral Mahan so often remarked, was an exclusive thing; it could not be shared, and was appliable to one nation at a time."3 Continental powers so limited have had to adopt special measures or alternatives to compensate for their inherent geographical shortcomings. As a result, two separate strategic policies recur throughout history as great maritime and continental powers have confronted one another. The Development of the Soviet Navy and the Soviet Global Strategy At the end of World War II and the beginning of what would be called the cold war, the United States and its western allies had not only a preponderance of strength in naval force numbers but also an absolute preponderance in the equally important perception of sea power. However, since then, the Soviet Navy has slowly grown and now has a greater number of ships than the American Navy. An additional point is that the fleets of the major western allies are also shrinking. On the contrary, not only has the Soviet Navy become quantitatively superior to the American fleet, it has also changed its quality and types of ships. The Soviet Union is pressing forward on the high seas with the creation of an oceanic navy. The ship, not the tank, is the military element to which the Soviets give priority today. The Soviets have grasped the meaning of cormmand of the sea. Behind the maritime ambitions of the Kremlin leader- ship is the realization that confrontation in the East-West conflict is shifting, ever more strongly from land to sea. 3Clark G. Reynolds, Command of the Sea: The History and Strategy of Maritime Empires (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1974) p. 211. The immense continental empire--Russia--which covers a sixth of the world's land area, has with the construction of an oceanic navy broken the fetters of inland confinement and transformed the claim to be a world power into direct intervention on every continent. For the first time, their navy operating on all the oceans gives Soviet powers the means to direct worldwide action. What is the global strategy of the Soviet Union? We must remember that, according to Soviet military doctrine, armed forces are a prominent instrument of policy even in peace, through presence, pressure, intimidation, and threat. In striving to expand their power, the Soviets no longer need defeat the enemy on land and the battle no longer need take place in Central Europe. Consequently, in view of the concentration of military forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain, an advance of the Red Army would raise the risk of a third world war. The NATO alliance can be paralyzed from the sea even without the force of arms. A lot of people think that the security of Europe is still identified with a line, the Iron Curtain, which in the case of aggression must be defended with or without atomic weapons. However, why should the Russians attack across the Elbe River when a less risky way is open to achieve their aim by the establishment of hegemony over Western Europe? The Soviet Union, stretching from the Elbe to the Pacific, is economically self-sufficient. It needs no Red Fleet to protect its supply lines. For the West, however, the basic arteries of life run through the sea. The Mideast crisis in the fall of 1973 gave a glaring example and opened a new panorama of threats reaching in previously unparalleled dimensions far beyond the various Mideastern crises into the East-West conflict. Thus, indirectly through the Arab countries, Moscow realized that the solidarity of the western alliance could be disrupted with economic weapons, with control, and--if need be--constriction of the sea lanes to weaken and wear down the western industrial nations and Japan. In combination with the Soviet fleet, the Arab oil reserves are conceived as a means of pressure to isolate Western Europe from America, to neutralize and, in the sense of recognizing the hegemony of the Soviet Union, to "finlandize" it. The Soviet Interests in the South Atlantic The past reputation of the South Atlantic as an isolated outpost is fast disappearing. Major changes in the area include the final withdrawal of European colonial power, the growth of Soviet interests and presence, and the emergence of new regional power centers on both sides of the Atlantic. Linking the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the North Atlantic, the region's sea routes carry a major portion of the petroleum needed by the United States and its NATO allies. Nearly all of the oil from the Persian Gulf passes around the Cape of Good Hope into the South Atlantic because supertankers cannot use the Suez Canal. Since they are also too big for the Panama Canal, oil from Alaska may also be shipped around Cape Horn in the supertankers. Soviet naval power in the South Atlantic is steadily increasing. With more than 3O ships presently stationed in the Indian Ocean, and several transiting the South Atlantic at almost any given time,4 the Soviet Navy has clearly marked the South Atlantic as its next major focus for development. 4Robert P. Berman., Soviet Naval Strength and Deployment (New York: Praeger, 1977) p. 217. With bases established in Angola, the Soviet Union would have a growing capability to threaten the blockade of resources vital to western economies, and thus have the potential in crisis situations to exert influence on the industrialized economies of the North Atlantic. The discovery of large oil deposits and other resources along the Atlantic littoral of Africa and off the coast of Argentina and Brazil would increase significantly the external competition within this region. Zairian copper, Gabonese iron and manganese, oil from Cabinda and Nigeria and chrome and gold from South Africa, raw materials absolutely indispensable for the industrialized states of the northern hemisphere, are important enough to change the strategic rules of the contest in the South Atlantic. However, competition in the South Atlantic will be increased during the next decade by other factors: 1. There is a rising potential for nationalistic rivalry between local powers. 2. The attempts to resolve racial tensions in southern Africa had failed. 3. Unprecedent diplomatic initiatives by governments in the region reaching out to one another are a reality. 4. There are possible changes in access to the region including the routes via the Panama Canal, the Mediterranean, and the Cape of Good Hope. 5. The outcome of the U.N. Laws of the Sea Conference affects the jurisdictions of regional states over areas up to 200 miles wide on both sides of the South Atlantic. 6. Geological soundings in the Antartic which reveals the presence of oil, gas, and manganese with no international mechanism to control exploitation of the region. 7. There is the present and prospective bankruptcy of numerous small countries in the region likely to open them to cheaply bought influ- ence--up to and including hard basing rights for external military powers. So, in the future, the challenges to western interests--military, political, and economic will have to be faced, geographically, throughout the triangle bordered by Africa, Latin America, and the Antarctic. Areas of Conflict Anyone who makes predictions about potential conflicts takes a risk. Certain things can be said, however, about the events during the next twenty-odd years that are predictable. The question is: will these events involve the use of sea power? The Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea are the two regions of most concern because they have the greatest immediate potential to involve the two superpowers. The Atlantic Ocean is the primary geographical area of maritime interest for the western countries. It is an avenue from the United States to their allies and trading partners in Europe, and is the location of the principal and most probable sea-based threat to our countries. Virtually all of the strategic raw materials imported by the western countries are shipped through or landed at ports on the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to the strategic imports, the Atlantic is the economic seaway which carries about ninety percent of the U. S. trade in manufactured products with Western Europe. Click here to view image On the other hand, as an expanding population forces the world to rely more heavily upon the sea for food and the exploitation of mineral and metallic resources of the seas, the Atlantic grounds assume increased importance. 5Instituto Ja Defesa National, Nacao e Defesa (Lisbon, 1980) p. 125. There are also a lot of predictions that can be made concerning the Mediterranean area such as: 1. The rivalry which endures among the Arab nations and the continuing importance of Middle East oil. 2. Soviet use of Yugoslavian bases at the same time the United States seems to be losing bases in the Eastern Mediterranean will have an effect on sixth fleet operations. 3. The Turkish-Greek quarrel with the possibility that the Soviet Union will intervene on one side or the other. 4. The threat of Eurocommunism in Italy and France could have devastating effects on the operation of the sixth fleet. 5. With the acquired rights to naval bases and the construction of air bases on the North African Coast, especially in Algeria and Libya, the Soviet Mediterranean Fleet would receive the logistic support and the air cover it has lacked until now. In a summary, I would say that Soviet naval activity both in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean is designed to outflank Europe by weakening the position of the Western alliance. What Western Strategy Faces the Soviet Threat? At present, western maritime strength and influence are directly challenged by the unprecedented growth of Soviet sea power. The scope of this power can be explained by the priority given to the Soviet Navy to accomplish the four basic naval tasks: strategic strike, sea control, strategic defense, and interdiction of sea lines of communication. To do so, the Soviet Union has organized an impressive maritime force composed of surface ships, submarines, and aircraft. This force continues to diversify and to improve its capabilities. As noted above, sea control is the navy's primary wartime mission within a nation's overall forward defense strategy. Sea control, as defined by Admiral James L. Holloway is "the engagement and destruction of hostile aircraft, ships, and submarines at sea...or the deterrence of hostile actions through the threat of destruction."6 For the past forty-five years naval aircraft has been the primary naval systems for achieving that destruction. Most of the navy's offensive power has come from sea-landed aviation. The aircraft carrier, capable of transiting long distances, enhanced the range of naval aircraft; together, carrier and aircraft became the navy's dominant offensive system during World War II. Recent advances in technology, notably the advent of precision-guided munitions, have resulted in a new threat to the carrier survivability. Whereas, carriers previously operated virtually as safe havens, out of range from the enemy land-based aviation, they now must face not only long-range bomber threats but also a more widespread threat from cruise missile-equipped nuclear-powered submarines. The loss of one carrier today would be far more damaging to the fleet than its loss would have been some years ago; yet, the loss of that carrier is far more likely today than it would have been then. In the era of ICBM's, laser beams and neutron bombs, the aircraft carrier is too vulnerable and too expensive. As we cannot anticipate that the carrier will not require escort protection in the foreseeable future, the escort offensive capabilities will remain secondary to their task of defending the carrier. Thus, the increasing vulnerability and the growing costs of both building and protecting the aircraft carriers have led analysts to search for alternative means of providing the navy with the air power necessary to 6U.S. Congress, Committee on Armed Services, The FY 1978 Posture and Fy 1978 Budget of the United States Navy, March 7, 1977, assure the success of its sea-control mission. What alternative means? One of these alternatives is that of widening the navy's utilization of land-based aviation. However, the first question to be asked is: can land-based air actually be used for sea control? In my opinion, the possible use of land-based tactical aviation for sea control might be viewed not only as complementing the inherent sea control capabilities of the carrier force, but also as freeing elements of that force for projection of power ashore. The Soviet submarine fleet is the world's largest. Some analysts have pointed to the Soviet northern fleet as the greatest threat to America's sea lanes to its allies. Recent estimates show that by 1985 the total Soviet submarine force will rise from its present level of 84 nuclear-powered attack submarines to about 165 SSNS. The northern fleet would claim about 92 of these, with most, if not all of the remainder, in the Pacific fleet.7 Soviet naval aviation provides an important complement to the fleet mission of denying the sea lanes to the western allies. It includes combat aircraft, Badger bombers, armed with air-to-surface missiles with ranges of over 100 miles. Also, the Backfire long-range bombers with a combat radius between 1,750 and 3,500 nautical miles which are equipped with AS-4 and AS-6 missiles with ranges from 100 miles up to 500 miles. The Soviet surface fleet is not considered to be as great a threat to the U.S. missions as the submarine or aviation forces. In the case of a long war, the convoys and carriers providing "umbrella" protection for them would be particularly vulnerable to attacks by submarines whose stealth and unlimited range would make detection and 7Robert P. Berman, Soviet Naval Strength and Deployment (New York: Praeger, 1977) p. 340. localization an exceedingly difficult task for allied forces. Aircraft would certainly menace convoy shipping. The Soviets have a significant capability to disrupt allied maritime operations during a war based in Europe and/or Asia. To face this threat there are natural geographical barriers for the early detection and interdiction of hostile Soviet aircraft as well as submarines. As such they constitute the foundation for a potentially significant land-based contribution to the defense of the Atlantic sea lanes against the Soviet bomber and submarine threats, and therefore to allied defenses regardless of the length of a war or the warning that precedes it. The Atlantic Ocean possesses some natural geographic barriers for the early detection and interdiction of Soviet aircraft and submarines and for land-based air power and those are the Atlantic islands: 1. Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom which would control the Northern Atlantic. 2. The Azores and Madeira Islands which would control the routes from America to Europe and to the South Atlantic and the Strait of Gibraltar and anti-submarine warfare. The cost of employing land-based air is far less than the equivalent cost of stationing a carrier in those areas or, indeed, of operating a carrier elsewhere with a view to its rapid redeployment in those gaps. Click here to view image 8U.S. Congress, Congressional Budget Office Defense Resources Model, 1979, p. 32. The Strategic Portuguese Land in this Geopolitical Scenario. Portugal's modern military significance traces to October 1943, when Salazar ended his World War II balancing act between the Axis and Allied powers by allowing the British RAF to develop and use an airfield on Terceira Island in the Azores. Thirteen months later, at the time of the Normandy invasion. the United States entered into a formal agreement with Salazar regime to use a companion field on Santa Maria Island. Consequently, they began the official American military presence in Portugal which continues today. Following the war, the United States relinguished to Santa Maria Base and entered into a new agreement providing for transit rights at Lajes Field which had been a British RAF facility with an extension in 1948. This agreement lasted until 1951 at which time the United States and Portugal were joined in the NATO alliance. Portugal is situated in the region where, historically, the permanent dispute between the Maritime and Continental Powers has taken place. Also that region which has been characterized by a chronical instability has been designated as "Rimland" (See Figure 2). Click here to view image 9Instituto Da Defesa National, Nacao e Defesa, (Lisbon, 1980) p. 112 The Portuguese territory includes an Atlantic narrow strip peripheric to the Iberian Peninsula (situated in the first line of contention of the Continental Power dispute for influence and two Atlantic archipelagos, the Azores and Madeira Islands (situated in the second line of contention dispute for influence and sea control). See Figure 3. Click here to view image 10Oliveira Marques, History of Portugal, Vol I and Vol II (Columbia University Press, 1972) p. 42. Thus, I would say that the triangle made up by the line joining Continental Portugal, the Azores and Maerira Islands, is crossed by a real strategic border. Indeed, the described border between the Continental and the Maritime Powers was activated during World War II when all of Western Europe was occupied by German forces. The Azores were given to the United States and the United Kingdom so that the supply replenishment and liberation operations could be jumped off to Europe. Crossing the Protuguese territory the most important routes, both maritime or aerial, establish the link to Europe, North and South America, Africa and Middle East. Click here to view image 11Instituto Da Defesa National, Nacao e Defesa (Lisbon 180) p. 121. The Madeira Islands, situated in front of the Strait of Gibraltar and off the northwest coast of Africa, are in the most southern position within the geographical area of NATO. See Figure 5. Click here to view image Portugal's Future Strategic Role The Portuguese land can be described as the biggest anchored carrier in the world to which can be assigned the following tasks: 1. In peacetime -To support C-141 and C-5 missions of the Military Aircraft Command (MAC). -To support tactical aircraft delivries, exercises, and rotations. -To serve as an alternate base for tactical and strategic aircraft in the event of missed refueling or emergency. -To provide flexibility in air routing to avoid adverse weather conditions on the northern Atlantic route. 12Instituto Da Defesa NationaL, Nacao e Defesa (Lisbon, 1980) p. 129. -To support and control all aircraft transiting the mid-Atlantic. 2. For contingencies The Azores is one of the most important forward bases in facilitating movements of U.S.-based support to crisis areas in the Middle East or North Africa as it did during the Middle East war of October 1973. For the C-13O, a smaller cargo aircraft of shorter range, the use of the Azores is necessary if transatlantic missions are not to be limited to the northern route. These islands can serve as an effective substitute for the bases in Europe and they provide an excellent staging base for tactical aircraft. 3. In war In the event of a major NATO confrontation with the Warsaw Pact which would involve the immediate augmentation of U.S. forces in Europe, the Portuguese land would serve as a main staging base for C-5A and C-141 troop transport and material missions, tactical planes, and aircraft of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF). Conclusions a. As history as shown and as current operations indicate, and also analytical analysis demonstrates, land-based aviation will be important to American use of the sea for the foreseeable future. The concept of pre-positioned forces and equipment is already a reality. Also, the United States is today more dependent upon use of the sea for advancing its political, economic, and military well-being than probably ever before in the nation's history. b. It appears that geography has afforded the western countries with the opportunity to improve their sea control capability well within the next decades, perhaps without having to resort to the construction of expensive ships. Land-based AWACS (or E-2C), early-warning aircraft, and interceptors, such as the T-14, would radically improve the present air defense systems. P-3's armed with Harpon could perform the antiship mission in these areas. The B-52D's or the F-111's could also perform if they were armed with the new antiship missiles. P-3's already make a major contribution to the ASW effort. The advent of captor affords more scope for their use or for the utilization of B-52's in the mine-laying role. Thus, land-based aviation for sea control is an option available to the navy today; it will remain available and become even more important during the next quarter century. c. In this context, the Portuguese land can provide operating bases for land-based, antisubmarine warfare aircraft, principally Lockheed P-3's which carry sophisticated equipment enabling them to detect, track, and destroy both attack and ballistic submarines operating in the mid-Atlantic. Employing the principle of triangulation, the Hf/Df system can locate and track aircraft, submarines, surface combatants, merchant ships and fishing vessels functioning as a primary source of intelligence. In summary, the Portuguese land facilities provide capabilities for submarine and surface surveillance and combat in the mid-Atlantic; the staging of aircraft enroute from America to Europe and the Middle East; and naval fuel storage. BIBLIOGRAPHY Alford, Jonathan, ed. Sea Power and Influence, New Jersey: Gower and Allan Held, Osmun and Co Publishers, 1980. Berman, Robert P. Soviet Naval Strength and Deployment, Baker, Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution, 1982. Carvalho, Virgilio. "Importancia Estrategica das Regioes Autonomas", Nacao e Defesa, January - March 1980, pp. 111-132. Chester, Edward W. The United States and Six Atlantic Outposts, the Military and Economic Considerations. Kennikat Press, 1980. Ferreira, Jose M. "Reflexoes Sobre a Importancia Estrategica Sas Ilhas Atlanticas: Sua Dermanencia e Evolucao Historica.", Nacao e Defesa, January - March 1980, pp. 135-144. Marques, Oliveria. History of Portugal, Vol I and Vol II. Columbia University Press, 1972. Reynolds, Clark G. Command of the Sea, the History and Strategy of Maritime Empires, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1974. Sokol, Anthony E. Seapower in the Nuclear Age. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1961. U.S. Congress House Committee on Armed Services. Statement of Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN, concerning The FY 1978 Posture and Fy1978 Budget of the United States Navy, March 7, 1977. U.S. Congress Congressional Budget Office Defense Resources Model. The U.S. Sea Control Mission. U.S. Congress Congressional Record, 88th Congress, 2nd Session, Vol 110, pt 10, June 16, 1964.
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