With acute challenges facing non-proliferation programs these days, there always seem to be obstacles that come up on the way to progress in implementing certain vital commitments. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the career prospects of thousands of weapons scientists became very precarious in Ukraine and other CIS countries. Today, their highly specialized knowledge on WMD design and production remains of potential interest to terrorist organizations and states of proliferation concern. Research has shown that younger generation of scientists, as well as those involved in biological and nuclear weapons research, are particularly at risk of being recruited. To reduce this proliferation risk, programs such as STCU Conversion Programs are redirecting these individuals toward peaceful and productive scientific pursuits. Efforts include helping former weapons scientists:
  • find sustainable employment opportunities;
  • develop new skills through professional development;
  • get involved in commercially viable research; and
  • integrate into the international scientific community.

The knowledge and skills acquired by former weapons scientists (FWS) could be acquired by terrorist groups and/or countries seeking to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This threat is enhanced if former weapons scientists are unable to find suitable and comparable employment in a non-weapons, or civilian, area.

The Science and Technology Center (STCU) in Ukraine started its operations in 1993 to deter the spread of WMD expertise by helping former Soviet weapon-of-mass-destruction scientists and engineers in their transition to self-supporting, peaceful research activities being an essential part of a mechanism of expertise and cooperation, applied around the CIS region to reduce the risks posed by nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

STCU is governed by Canada, the European Union, Ukraine, and the United States, and also includes in its membership the countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan. The STCU helps develop, finance and monitor science and technology projects that engage the former Soviet weapons community in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Moldova in peaceful civilian activities. The STCU is a diplomatic entity and has been registered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine as an intergovernmental organization with its headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine.

Since its start, STCU has sponsored over 1700 R&D projects which involved approximately 18 thousand scientists and engineers, financed by governmental programs, non-governmental, and commercial entities, for a total of over US$250 million. This cooperative science research has brought ex-Soviet weapons experts into peaceful, civilian research opportunities with governmental programs and commercial customers throughout Canada, Europe, and the United States. Through this cooperation, STCU has contributed not only to WMD non-proliferation, but also to the progressive S&T development in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. It is worth noting that there is an increased interest from non-governmental Partners in funding STCU S&T projects and STCU will continue to develop this trend in order to gain a broader list of co-operators in the context of geography and technical areas of highest priority.

Transition in the future           

It is important to emphasize, that like many of the Cooperative Threat Reduction programs of the 1990s, the Center has reached a turning point and is now undergoing necessary transformational changes to meet today’s CBRN challenges. Looking back at almost 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, one clearly sees new visions that organizations such as the STCU may serve in the future.

Over its past the Center proved to be a sustainable and trusted intergovernmental organization and now should be considered a regional resource to address today’s global security priorities, particularly those priorities requiring program transparency and strong project management skills.

Enhancements to border security, including technology to fight illicit nuclear material smuggling; radiation emergency risks; civil adaptation and emergency preparedness to climate change and environmental risks; public health safety and security against intentional and unintentional biological and chemical threats—these are just a few contemporary security concerns that call for multilateral S&T solutions. STCU has the programmatic ability to organize and manage such cooperation implementing Global Partnership initiatives and experience.

STCU also provides practical examples and real-world experience that could contribute to other politically-sensitive threat reduction areas, given STCU’s nearly 20 years in WMD expertise non-proliferation and in the redirection of ex-nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile scientists to peaceful, civilian activities. The STCU continues to play an important role in addressing the goals of the G8 Global Partnership Against Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and this role will continue in an extended and expanded Global Partnership.

It must be emphasized that STCU is essentially becoming more than just a program of past years. It has strong potential and all necessary tools in place to become a regional hub for non-proliferation activities. It represents a useful mechanism for the Multilateral Partnership and for other types of cooperation in non-proliferation, regional stability, and energy security being a well-known brand in member states.

The “to-do” list for non-proliferation remains quite lengthy and our cooperation in this domain is a good example, where such a partnership helps fight today’s emerging national, regional, and global security and stability challenges. The Kiev International Protection, Security and Fire Safety Event is a good example where such a cooperation can further facilitate best practices among the international scientific community and implement projects to improve the culture of responsibility, engage initiatives on behalf of global security interests, and develop a platform for S&T cooperation and raise awareness of CBRN threats and non-proliferation culture to a higher level. Threats will take new forms, and cooperation in this context will have to be fast-paced and even more constructive.

Previous articleDIY Bioterrorism Part II: The proliferation of bioterrorism through synthetic biology
Next articleThe Gravest Danger
Ms. Irina Rogovchenko works at the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine where, as Transformation Program Manager, she is the leader that initiates and evaluates business transformation progress. In supporting the ED, she is responsible for business process improvement of nearly all aspects across the Center.