Shaping Security Preparedness: Key Takeaways for Security Professionals from the Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine

In anticipation of GSX, we sat down with presenters of upcoming sessions in order to get a better understanding of the topics at hand. This week we are featuring, “Shaping Security Preparedness: Key Takeaways for Security Professionals from the Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine,” presented by Viktor Panchak, Security Director and Partner at International SOS, Mykola Mikheiev, CPP, PSP, PCI, Security Operation Center Officer at European Union Advisory Mission, John Rendeiro, Vice President of Global Security and Intelligence at International SOS, and Tom Callahan, Senior Security Advisor at CRDF Global. Read on for what they had to say and don’t forget to register for GSX 2024!

Q: How did you become interested in your topic?  

VP: I am Ukrainian, and as millions of my fellow countrymen the first thing I heard at 4:30 AM on 02/24/2022 was a massive rocket attack with bomb blasts in Kyiv outskirts. The Russia/Ukraine war is undoubtedly the most serious geopolitical crisis in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. It is an existential threat for Ukraine, but its impacts go well beyond the immediate devastation that it’s causing, particularly with regard to the security landscape.  

As security professionals, we must be forward-looking and share lessons learned with our colleagues globally. That was the key indicator that I started thinking about pulling together this topic. With subject matter expertise “from the ground”, our education session at GSX will explore the key takeaways from the war that security professionals should consider while shaping their security operations procedures. The aim is to identify the main drivers that impact business and explore the most efficient instruments and methods for mitigating risks while getting prepared for the worst. 

Q: Tell us about your presentation and why security professionals should have this topic on their radar.  

MM: The current conflict in Ukraine is the most significant war on the European continent since WWII. Moreover, there is clearly a conflict of values between the smaller young democratic state that admires Western values and the authoritarian regime, excessing Cold War proxy power coercion. 

Many Western companies have been working in Ukraine before. Yet during the two and half years of the conflict, Western companies in Ukraine learned a lot about the new relay of how to maintain the business, how to apply the duty of care about their ex-pats and local personnel, how to be resilient, and how to plan the business continuity. If your company operates globally or you are in the Asian markets, you can learn much from Ukraine’s resilience because China is watching the Russian steps and could soon mimic it in Taiwan or the South China Sea. As the saying goes, failure to prepare is equal to preparing to fail. By attending this session, security professionals can take away the suggestions from the firsthand professionals involved in business resilience planning affected by the Ukraine conflict and adapt them to their prospective businesses. 

Q: What advice would you give security professionals interested in this topic? 

JR: First of all, I’d advise reading up on an overview of Ukrainian history, inevitably concentrating on Ukraine’s historic relations with Russia. After examining the more or less ancient history, including the establishment of the Kiev Rus and subsequent events, I’d concentrate on twentieth and twenty-first century developments, including the Bolshevik revolution and its aftermath, World War Two, the post-war trajectory of the Soviet Union and its collapse. Then a detailed study of the past twenty years and Russian incursions into Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine would be in order. It’s simply impossible to even begin to understand what’s going on now in Ukraine and Russia without this historical foundation. In addition, exploring the particular security challenges facing those doing business or just traveling in Ukraine and Russia would be a requirement for a security professional interested in that region. Finally, I’d advise participating in webinars and other events dealing with Ukraine, for a current view of events. 

Q: How do you see this issue evolving in the next 2-5 years?  

TC: From a narrow perspective, companies and organizations in the region are considering more seriously what they would do if faced with a similar situation. A Russian invasion of Ukraine was considered unthinkable by many, even up to the point where tanks were massed along the border. The unthinkable became real, and other countries – Poland, the Baltics, Moldova – are reassessing the scope of their preparations. The key is how resilient do you need to be to achieve the purposes of your company or organization, including your sense of responsibility for employees, and what tools, equipment, procedures, and assets do you need to enhance that resilience. Companies and organizations in Ukraine that got back on track quickly after the full-scale invasion had built in layers of resilience. They adjusted to personnel relocating and working remotely, ensured that their critical data was held in the cloud and not solely in local servers, compensated employees with flexible, emergency grants or loans, and used simple channels to keep track of where people were and what they were facing – Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal as well as Facebook and regular email. Some organizations like ours had a designated location in a city outside the country (or far to the west) that became a rallying point, way station, or permanent relocation. We also had local experts on call for extraction assistance if needed. 

From a broader perspective, the effects are enormous. An entire generation of Ukrainians will grow up with this event a defining in their lives. Fathers and brothers entering the service, mothers and children relocating to other parts of the country or outside the country, school districts chosen based on how good a bomb shelter they have. Ukraine will be even more Europe-oriented, more multilingual, and more mobile in a post conflict, reconstruction era. For decades to come, people running for office in Ukraine will need to answer the question about what they did during the war.  

Q: Why do you attend GSX?  

VP: Global Security Exchange is the world’s most comprehensive event for security professionals globally. Attending GSX ensures you never fall behind, stay informed, connected, and prepared for what’s next in the world of professional security. My Top-5 reasons to attend GSX: 

  1. Keep up to speed in expanding your professional knowledge.
  2. Experience dynamic learning opportunities via substantial education sessions. 
  3. Upgrade your professional network through interacting with your peers.  
  4. Learn about innovative security technology products and solutions.  
  5. Celebrate our profession and achievements and have some well-deserved fun.