The Portuguese left is the latest passenger to have hitched a ride on Europe's anti-nuclear bandwagon. AT first sight, Portugal is an unlikely country to be complaining about nuclear arms since there are none stationed on its soil and since NATO has not so far asked to deploy any in this remote southwestern corner of Europe.
But the opposition is deeply concerned that the growing US interest in strategically placed Portuguese bases might eventually lead to this nation of 10 million people being included under the US nuclear umbrella.
Portugal is the NATO ally furthest removed from any Soviet border, but is, after Britain, the member of the Atlantic alliance hosting the greatest number of NATO military installations on its soil. The left is afraid that any new facilities Lisbon might grant its partners, particularly the United States, will include allowing nuclear-armed aircraft carriers to establish home ports here, thus in some way involving Portugal in the alliance's nuclear strategy against the Soviet Bloc.
The issue is even more topical now that the US naval base at Rota in southern Spain is off limits to nuclear-armed submarines.
A campaign to alert the public to the danger of nuclear arms is just getting off the ground in Portugal, but is receiving support from high places, including the military.
Gen. Francisco da Costa Gomes, former chief of the armed forces and Portugal's president from 1974 to 1976, has long been campaigning on behalf of the Moscow-backed World Peace Council against the stationing of nuclear arms in this country.
General Costa Gomes has retired from active service, but this week a prominent member of Portugal's military watchdog, the Council of the Revolution, threw his weight behind extreme left-wing efforts to prevent nuclear warheads being stationed here.
Lt. Col. Ernesto Melo Antunes, who actively supported nonalignment when he served as foreign minister in 1975, said this week that the struggle to keep nuclear arms out of this country was a just one.
Colonel Melo Antunes has the ear of President Antonio Ramalho Eanes, and any move to grant the US or any other country increased military facilities in Portugal must have the approval of the Council of the Revolution, on which the colonel hs sat since 1975.
Addressing a small meeting of the left-wing Union for Democratic Socialism, Melo Antunes said the Us move to get its European partners in NATO to deploy Pershing II and cruise missiles would transform the continent into a huge nuclear battlefield in the event of Soviet confrontation.
He accused the Reagan administration of seeking US Supremacy over the world economic system and said it needed world rearmament to achieve its aims. Just because Portugal belongs to NATO, this did not mean it stopped being an independent nation or that the United States had a right to install nuclear weapons here, he added.