Iceland, Ireland, Japan and Ukraine join NATO Cyber Defence Centre

18 May 2023

Iceland, Ireland, Japan and Ukraine joined NATO’s Tallinn-based cyber defence centre, the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) on the 16 May—the centre’s 15th anniversary. Kyiv called the move “a step on the way” to NATO membership. The inclusion of these nations is expected to enhance cooperation, knowledge sharing and collective efforts in addressing cyber threats.

“We are particularly glad to see Ukraine here with us,” Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur was quoted as saying in a CCDCOE statement. “This offers a unique opportunity to simultaneously contribute to Ukraine’s defence in Russia’s brutal war and learn from the cyber battlefield to improve the cyber security of all members”, he added. At the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a cyberattack was launched against satellite operator Viasat to disrupt Ukraine’s communications. Spillover from the attack impacted wind turbines in Germany.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Estonia, Mariana Betsa, hailed the “landmark event” as “an important step on the way to Ukraine’s accession to NATO”. With ongoing Russian aggression and hybrid warfare, Ukraine’s participation in CCDCOE is expected to bolster its cyber capabilities and enhance the exchange of direct experience in the field of cybersecurity.

The other new member nations also shared their statements regarding their inclusion in the centre. Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs and for Defence, Peter Burke, emphasised the importance of Ireland’s membership in developing cyber security capacity. Ambassador Harald Aspelund of Iceland emphasised Iceland’s priority of strengthening cyber resilience, security, and defence. Japan, represented by Chargé d’Affaires ad interim SAKAI Yuki, highlighted its commitment to strengthening response capabilities in the cyber domain.

The centre—which now extends to all NATO member states (except North Macedonia) and eight additional countries (Austria, Australia, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine)—was founded in 2008 in the Estonian capital, a few years after the country joined NATO, and in the wake of a wave of cyberattacks in 2007. The CCDCOE has evolved from a small team to the largest NATO centre of excellence (COE). NATO-accredited COEs (of which there are now 28) are not part of the NATO Command Structure; they are international military organisations supporting wider alliance needs. Key outputs include cyber research, education, training, and exercises. Perhaps the most well-known products have been the two Tallinn Manuals—The Tallin Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare and the Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations—which have been influential in upholding international law in cyberspace for over a decade. Other projects include the annual international cyber defence exercise Locked Shields and the annual conference CyCon.