Much of Kharkiv's infrastructure and most of the building's in its historic core have been damaged by Russian missiles and artillery barrages. Photo by Anna Hunko on Unsplash

Editor’s note: This commentary was written by Adam Stulberg, chair of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs within the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as Peter Brecke, an associate professor at the Sam Nunn School.

Since Russia launched its full-scale military invasion into Ukraine on Feb. 24, the war has been front and center in international headlines. Governments and organizations around the world have been providing defense support and humanitarian aid. 

Some stakeholders in Georgia, however, are taking a different approach, focusing on helping Ukraine rebuild from the devastating effect of the war on its social and physical infrastructure. 

A wide array of institutions, including the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, are working to develop long-term solutions to protect the country from further violence in the postwar future. The goal is to not only provide immediate emergency aid, but also to lay the foundation for sustainable growth and security throughout Ukraine.

A prime example of these efforts is the Sam Nunn School’s pending project focused on rebuilding in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Beyond just recovery, the school is working with a security-oriented think tank in Central Europe to explore avenues to help Ukraine’s second largest city reimagine and rebuild anew, making use of the best knowledge and technologies that Georgia Tech can provide. Areas of interest include Georgia Tech’s latest research on building a more resilient energy grid that smoothly integrates new with existing power lines, as as well as the latest ideas on smart city design.

In addition, this past March, Hampton University launched an initiative to assist Ukrainian college students impacted by the R

ussian invasion. Within this context, Georgia Tech, through its Vertically Integrated Project program, allowed its students to work with Hampton faculty and Ukrainian students on the science and engineering challenges posed by rebuilding Ukraine. Specifically, they studied the environmental impacts of Russia’s incursion into the Chernobyl nuclear site’s exclusion zone. 

Due to the conflict, fires in impacted zones likely released radioactive materials into the surrounding environment, thereby increasing risks to food and water resources. Such contaminants pose cancer risks, especially to children and adolescents, and student researchers right here in Georgia have been and will be evaluating options for assessing and mitigating the impacts of these widespread threats. Students are also evaluating the effects of flooding on villages and farmland downstream of Ukrainian dam infrastructures that were heavily damaged by the war. Restoration of water supplies, housing, power grids and farmland is necessary to rebuild Ukraine, along with addressing issues of environmental justice and infrastructure resiliency.

Finally, through the 5000 Ukrainian Engineers initiative, Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is seeking to bring 5000 Ukrainian undergraduate and graduate students to the U.S. and other countries, 200 of whom will come to Georgia Tech to learn about infrastructure engineering. These students will undergo an intense engineering education focused on civil and environmental engineering, with the opportunity to incorporate other engineering disciplines in their studies. The goal of the initi

ative is to send these students back to Ukraine equipped with the skills to play significant roles in rebuilding their country.

Georgia Tech, and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, in particular, is also helping to sharpen the global focus on Peace Engineering (PE), an approach to research and teaching that combines the knowledge, skills, methods and technologies of engineers, social scientists and other academic disciplines such as architecture to help people in difficult situations that may experience or have already experienced violent conflicts. 

PE works to address the spectrum of challenges at the nexus of infrastructure deficiencies, development needs and civil and international violence. In situations where conflict is unavoidable, the attention is on mitigating the severity and effects of the violence. PE helps affected populations recover from the aftermath of the conflict in a manner that reduces the potential for a return to violence, while exploring avenues for integrating resilience into strategies of conflict prevention more generally.

The rebuilding of Ukraine will take generations, and Georgia, its partners, and its vast resources of talent are determined to play a vital role.

Dr. Adam N. Stulberg has been the Chair of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech since July 2019. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on international security, Russia/Eurasian politics and security affairs, nuclear (non)proliferation, and energy and international security, as well as interdisciplinary courses on science, technology, and international security policy. His current research focuses on the geopolitics of oil and gas networks, energy security dilemmas and statecraft in Eurasia, Russia and “gray zone” conflicts, new approaches to strategic stability, internationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle, and implications of emerging technologies for strategic stability and international security. Read his full bio and CV here