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U.S. Ambassador Orders Portugal To Choose Between the U.S. and China

Oct. 1, 2020 (EIRNS)—U.S. Ambassador George Glass delivered an ultimatum to Portugal last weekend that it must choose between maintaining its security alliance with the U.S. and NATO and its economic relations with China. The diktat was delivered in an interview with Expresso’s weekly magazine, published on Sept. 26.

“Portugal inevitably ends up being part of the battlefield in Europe between the United States and China,” Glass pronounced. He added that for the three years he has been ambassador there, Portugal has looked to Americans as security and defense “friends and allies” and to the Chinese as “economic partners,” but Portugal “cannot have the two ... [the Portuguese] must now choose” between them.

Glass specified the U.S. economic and security reprisals which would be taken against Portugal, should it permit Chinese investment in three specific areas: its 5G network (the auction is planned for this October), the Port of Sines, and Portugal’s largest construction and engineering company, Mota-Engil.

According to Glass, any participation of Huawei in Portugal’s 5G network will have consequences for Portugal’s security “partnership” with the U.S. and NATO. If the nearly-finalized deal for China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) to take a 30% stake in Mota-Engil proceeds, the U.S. will slap sanctions on Mota-Engil. (Glass went so far as to accuse Mota-Engil of selling its soul to China “for 30 pieces of silver.”) And if a Chinese company wins the contract to build a second terminal at the “incredibly strategic” Port of Sines, the U.S. could take its planned huge LNG investments at Sines elsewhere, he specified.

The last threat aims to sink Portugal’s key role in the Belt and Road Initiative. Portugal’s MOU for participation in the BRI, signed in December 2018, centers on Sines Port, which the Portuguese propose should become the intersection point between the cross-Eurasia BRI rail network and the needed Atlantic maritime routes between Eurasia, the Americas and Africa.

Glass’s brutish orders drew disgust. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa responded curtly: “It’s an obvious question of principle that in Portugal it is the representatives chosen by the Portuguese—and they alone—who decide on their destiny, respecting the Constitution and the rights it gives them, like international law.” Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva responded likewise, that “in Portugal, the decision-makers are the Portuguese authorities, who decide what Portugal’s interests are, within the framework of the Constitution and Portuguese law.” Top retired diplomat Seixas da Costa denounced Glass’s “bullying diplomacy,” which seeks to line up Portugal behind the “new Iron Curtain made in the U.S.A.”

Four days later, Foreign Minister Silva told the media that the Ambassador’s declarations were “an episode” that had been “overcome” and the U.S. and Portugal are working closely as allies should. Infrastructure Minister Pedro Nunes Santos today put the same good face on relations, saying that Portugal wants people from the U.S., China and the rest of the world to invest in Sines, and if the U.S. wants to invest, our arms are open to it. At the same time, he reminded the United States that Portugal has been an independent country for 900 years, and it intends to remain so.

Under Secretary of Economics Keith Krach is scheduled to visit Portugal next week.

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