Felipe Pathe Duarte: Non-kinetic hybrid threats in Europe – the Portuguese case study (2017-18)

Non-kinetic hybrid threats in Europe – the Portuguese case study (2017-18)

Felipe Pathé Duarte



This paper aims to understand whether Portugal, being a relatively peripheral country – in political, economic and military terms – of Southwest Europe, was recently a target of hybrid threats. The prevalence of a specific type of threat was found. Thus, this paper analyses the non-kinetic hybrid threats in Portugal, in a temporary hiatus of two years (2017-2018).


This study has two parts: a conceptual analysis of hybrid threats created by us and, based on the typology previously presented, an analysis of the hybrid threats in Portugal between 2017 and 2018. The first part relied on source analysis, as the result of a desk review methodology, supported by monographs, declassified official documents and reports. The second part is also the result of source analysis, but more extensive. In addition to the desk review methodology, the study included semi-structured interviews with different stakeholders from the Portuguese security and armed forces, who asked not to be quoted. Media content analysis was also carried out – for trends and fact-check – mostly for the events related to the “narratives led operations” (for propaganda, misinformation, counter-information and strategic leaks).


To date, Portugal – compared with other European states – has not been a significant target for hybrid threats. It is diluted in the Portuguese geopolitical dimension. Nevertheless, not escaping what is happening in Europe, it has also been the target of non-kinetic hybrid threats, especially in cyberspace. In the field of so-called “narrative-driven operations”, there have been some occurrences – whether related to fake news, far-right movements or strategic leaks. In addition, cyberattacks from foreign groups for information and data gathering have increased in recent years, making governmental and private critical infrastructures more vulnerable.

Research limitations/implications

One of the characteristics of hybrid threats is their difficult identification. Therefore, information is scarce, which has complicated the research, leading us to assume, in many cases, speculation about the threat. It should also be taken into account that, in the case of cyberspace, until 2018, 90% of the occurrences were not reported, and the study has dealt with only official numbers.


It is not a policy paper. Although it neither points out national vulnerabilities to this type of threat nor makes procedural recommendations or considerations, it is fundamental in identifying the peculiarity of hybrid threats in a democratic state. 

A7) PATHÉ-DUARTE, Felipe (2020), “Non-kinetic hybrid threats in Europe – the Portuguese case study (2017-18)”, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 433-451 [CS 5.0, 80%, 41/213 Public Administration]