Boosting scientific cooperation with Ukraine
Ukraine is now the top beneficiary of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme. Practical, scientific cooperation with the country is being increased substantially in response to the crisis in Ukraine. Previously, Russia received the most SPS funds but cooperation has been suspended until further notice.
“SPS projects with Ukraine not only have a scientific value – they also have a substantial impact on security,” says NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, Ambassador Sorin Ducaru. “The SPS Programme is a versatile tool – through our cooperation with Ukraine we have created a model of practical cooperation.”
The SPS Programme brings together researchers and experts from Ukraine and NATO countries to address security issues through scientific cooperation, creating practical results for society as well as valuable networks.
In line with political guidance and decisions taken at the NATO Summit in Wales in September, the SPS Programme has more than doubled the initial allocation of funds for activities with Ukraine in 2014. Since April 2014, 15 new SPS activities, including 12 large-scale multi-year projects have been approved by Allies, with a particular focus on important security concerns.
“We are very satisfied with what has been done,” says the Ukrainian Ambassador to NATO, Ihor Dolhov, praising the “wide range of useful practical projects with concrete deliverables.”
Addressing non-traditional security threats
Over the past few months, a number of new SPS activities have been launched to address a number of non-traditional security threats, which pose a considerable risk to Ukraine in the current security environment. Work is being taken forward in areas such as defence against chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear agents (CBRN), security-related advanced technologies, energy security and cyber defence.
The number of cyber attacks against the country has surged – even the presidential website was rendered inaccessible for several hours during the summer as a result. To help strengthen Ukraine’s cyber defences, a tailored hands-on cyber defence training course for system and network administrators has been developed together with the Security Service of Ukraine. Participants will learn more about fundamental cyber security protocols, services and technologies and will be better able to identify system vulnerabilities and monitor network traffic. This complements work being carried out under the new NATO Cyber Security Trust Fund for Ukraine.
CBRN agents are another potential security challenge. Ukrainian and Allied scientists are working closely together to develop innovative solutions, including in the area of nanotechnology which has many promising applications in the security domain. An upcoming workshop will offer a platform to share information about the latest research results and cutting-edge technologies in this area with a focus on new detection technologies for explosives and CBRN agents. In addition, a multi-year project is aims to develop fundamental new nanostructures for security applications, which could eventually form part of defence hardware such as launch detection systems.
Expert support is also being provided for Ukraine’s ongoing Comprehensive Security and Defence Review. Led by Estonia and Ukraine, a two-day event will bring together leading think tankers, experts as well as representatives from civil society to discuss as series of Green Papers on the key areas of the Review.
Further ideas for potential cooperation are being explored. For example, a project is currently being developed to provide equipment and training for humanitarian demining in Ukraine, where landmines are a major problem.
“We will continue to work closely with our Ukrainian colleagues to develop new, high quality SPS activities that will foster scientific cooperation and address key security concerns in Ukraine while making a difference for local populations,” says NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges.
A long history of scientific cooperation
These latest initiatives build on a long history of scientific cooperation with Ukraine. The country started participating in NATO science programmes in 1991 and cooperation was intensified following an exchange of letters on cooperation in the area of science and the environment in 1999.
Environmental concerns have been a key focus of cooperation. One SPS project has helped a modern, automatic, real-time monitoring and forecast system for flooding in the Pripyat river basin. Severe flooding in this area on the border between Belarus and Ukraine often has a serious impact local communities and economies. As the basin also includes the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and one of the river’s tributaries provides a local nuclear power station with cooling water, effective monitoring is essential.
Another SPS multi-year research project was launched last year to develop new technologies to collect necessary data and design effective devices to eliminate significant groundwater pollution caused by fuel deposits at a military site close to residential areas of Kyiv. These technologies could later be used for the remediation of other polluted areas in the country.
According to Ambassador Dolhov, this kind of practical cooperation which benefits local populations has a positive impact on NATO’s image in Ukraine, where currently 52 per cent of the population supports NATO membership.
By bringing together high-level scientists, collaboration through the SPS Programme often benefits not only Ukraine but creates global scientific networks and synergies with practical results. A good example of this is the development of an innovative, cost-effective x-ray generator in the National Science Centre in Kharkiv. This project has helped to foster a new generation of young Ukrainian scientists working on the frontline of modern technology. The generator will eventually produce high energy x-rays for use in high resolution image detection systems, which can be used across the world in areas as diverse as medicine, illicit trafficking, explosion detection, forensic detection and environmental security.
“This project demonstrates how SPS cooperation is a win-win situation with further opportunities for practical scientific cooperation by building networks. Ukrainian scientists also bring a lot of value to NATO,” says Ambassador Dolhov.