- Although armed force has been a major factor in the development of the Portuguese nation-state, a standing army did not exist until after the War of Restoration (1641-48). During the 18th century, Portugal's small army was drawn into many European wars. In 1811, a combined Anglo-Portuguese army drove the French army of Napoleon out of the country. After Germany declared war on Portugal in March 1916, two Portuguese divisions were conscripted and sent to France, where they sustained heavy casualties at the Battle of Lys in April 1918. As Portugal and Spain were neutral in World War II, the Portuguese Army cooperated with the Spanish army to defend Iberian neutrality. In 1949, Portugal became a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). When the nationalist quest for independence began in Portugal's colonies in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea- Bissau) in the 1960s, the military effort (1961-74) to suppress the nationalists resulted in an expansion of the Portuguese armed forces to about 250,000.Since the Revolution of 25 April 1974, the number of personnel on active duty in the army, navy, and air force has been greatly reduced (43,200 in 2007) and given a more direct role in NATO. New NATO commitments led to the organization of the Brigada Mista Independente (Independent Composite Brigade), later converted into the Brigada Aero-Transportada. (Air-Transported Brigade) to be used in the defense of Europe's southern flank. The Portuguese air force and navy are responsible for the defense of the Azores-Madeira-Portugal strategic triangle.Chronic military intervention in Portuguese political life began in the 19th century. These interventions usually began with revolts of the military (pronunciamentos) in order to get rid of what were considered by the armed forces corrupt or incompetent civilian governments. The army overthrew the monarchy on the 5 October 1910 and established Portugal's First Republic. It overthrew the First Republic on 28 May 1926 and established a military dictatorship. The army returned to the barracks during the Estado Novo of Antônio de Oliveira Salazar. The armed forces once again returned to politics when the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) overthrew the Estado Novo on 25 April 1974. After the Revolution of 25 April 1974, the armed forces again played a major role in Portuguese politics through the Council of the Revolution, which was composed of the president of the Republic, Chiefs of the general staff, three service chiefs, and 14 MFA officers. The Council of the Revolution advised the president on the selection of the prime minister and could veto legislation.The subordination of the Portuguese armed forces to civilian authority began in 1982, when revisions to the Constitution abolished the Council of the Revolution and redefined the mission of the armed forces to that of safeguarding and defending the national territory. By the early 1990s, the political influence of Portugal armed force had waned and civilian control was reinforced with the National Defense Laws of 1991, which made the chief of the general staff of the armed forces directly responsible to the minister of defense, not the president of the republic, as had been the case previously. As the end of the Cold War had eliminated the threat of a Soviet invasion of western Europe, Portuguese armed forces continues to be scaled back and reorganized. Currently, the focus is on modernization to achieve high operational efficiency in certain areas such as air defense, naval patrols, and rapid-response capability in case of terrorist attack. Compulsory military service was ended in 2004. The Portuguese armed forces have been employed as United Nations peacekeepers in East Timor, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. by Douglas L. Wheeler . 2014.
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