Protesters hold flags of Ukraine outside the United Nations during an emergency special session on February 28. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
March 4 (UPI) -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's cyberdefense agency on Friday announced that it has accepted Ukraine as a contributing participant.
The 27 member states in the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence's steering committee voted unanimously for Ukraine's membership.
"Ukraine's presence in the center will enhance the exchange of cyberexpertise, between Ukraine and CCDCOE member nations," said Col. Jaak Tarien, director of the CCDCOE. "Ukraine could bring valuable first-hand knowledge of several adversaries within the cyberdomain to be used for research, exercises and training."
This isn't the first time the Estonia-based CCDCOE has accepted a non NATO-nation as a contributing participant to the agency; Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland also belong.
Ukraine has also sought full membership to NATO for several years, but France, Germany and -- most notably -- Russia, have been against it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's staunch opposition to Ukraine joining NATO is at the heart of his invasion that began Feb. 24. He also called on NATO troops to return their military deployment to 1997 positions.
In a speech last month recognizing Ukraine's breakaway Donbas region as independent, Putin said he considers Ukraine part of Russia. He said modern Ukraine only existed because former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin made the mistake of giving the country autonomy within the Soviet Union.
Within a day of Russia's invasion last week, Ukraine reported multiple cyberattacks they blamed on Moscow. Last month, U.S. officials warned that Russia would likely use cyberattacks as part of its actions in Ukraine.
Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet said Friday that he welcomes the addition of Ukraine to the allied cyberdefense agency.
"Capability and knowledge comes from experience, and Ukraine definitely has valuable experience from previous cyberattacks to provide significant value to the NATO CCDCOE," Laanet said.
European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo