2014 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Europe
Explosive remnants of war (ERW) such as unexploded bombs and artillery shells from World War I and II and regional conflicts during the 1990s still contaminate parts of Europe. Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $339 million in funding to help rid the European continent of the dangerous legacies of past conflicts. After the United States, the European Union is the second largest donor to mine action in the world. Since the 1990s, extensive landmine and battle area clearance efforts have made much of Southeast Europe mine impact-free. Current U.S.-funded clearance and destruction efforts in the Balkans, Caucasus, and Ukraine largely focus on securing and destroying stockpiles of aging munitions and excess arms, as well as landmine and ERW clearance operations. The U.S. also supports efforts to secure and destroy excess man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), thus preventing their illicit proliferation.
Using a TV monitor and remote controls, a technician at the state-owned ULP Mjekes demilitarization factory in Elbasan, Albania, cuts up an anti-vehicle mine. [Photo by John Stevens/State Dept. Image]
The Kosovo crisis in 1998–1999 left significant landmine contamination along Albania’s border with Kosovo. As a result of extensive clearance efforts, which received significant U.S. support, Albania has been mine impact-free since 2009. However, large stockpiles of excess arms and munitions left over from Enver Hoxha’s regime (1944–1985) remain throughout the country. Looting of poorly-secured and abandoned weapons depots in the 1990s led to widespread small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) and munitions proliferation throughout Albania.
The country also remains contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO), particularly at more than a dozen “hot spots.” These include former impact ranges that the military failed to clear, depots that exploded during civil unrest in 1997, and the Gërdec military depot, which blew up in 2008. Highlighting the dangers of unsecure depots, the Gërdec explosions killed 26 people and injured more than 300 others. It also damaged 2,300 homes and left extensive UXO contamination in the surrounding areas.
Since FY1993, the United States has granted more than $36 million for conventional weapons destruction (CWD) efforts, including humanitarian mine action in Albania. In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided more than $2.3 million to the following organizations for conventional weapons destruction efforts in Albania:
• NATO Support Agency (NSPA) destroyed 4,700 tons of conventional munitions at the Uzina e Lëndëve Plasës Mjekës (ULP Mjekës) facility and modernized the facility. These efforts in 2013 concluded the four-year program, which also received in-kind support from Albania. In addition, NSPA destroyed 100,000 excess SA/LW at the Uzina Mekanike Gramsh (UM Gramsh) facility from Albanian Ministry of Defense and police (Ministry of Interior) stocks.
• ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) received a grant to clear the UXO hot spot in Gjerovan, one of three of the highest priority remaining UXO hot spots in the country. The Albania Mines and Munitions Coordination Office requested international assistance with clearing these three remaining sites. ITF also assessed the needs of mine survivors in the northwest Albanian districts of Shkoder and Lezhe, the former most mine-impacted region in the country and home to the majority of Albania’s mine survivors.
Also in FY2013, U.S. European Command deployed military explosive ordnance disposal personnel to conduct infrastructure development for Albanian mine action agencies and explosive remnants of war (ERW) disposal training. The training covered survey, marking, and mapping of ERW contaminated areas; landmine and UXO disposal; quality assurance and control; and medical first response with emphasis on blast trauma injuries. It also included program assessment visits to monitor and improve all aspects of the ERW disposal program. Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid appropriation funded travel-related costs, totaling $10,000.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan employed landmines in the Nagorno-Karabakh region during the 1988-to-1994 war. A 2012 non-technical survey by the Fondation Suisse de Déminage (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action or FSD) identified more than 37,444,834 square meters (over 14 square miles) of confirmed hazardous areas (CHA). By the end of 2013, the Armenia Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise (ACHDE) partnered with FSD to complete a government approved, non-technical survey of the CHAs in the unrestricted zone of Armenia, complete a draft of National Mine Action Standards, and develop a fully trained and equipped information management cell utilizing the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) protocols.
Since 1996, the United States invested over $11.8 million in Armenia for humanitarian mine action and conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $700,000 to Armenia for CWD programs that cleared landmines and unexploded ordnance and provided training as follows:
• FSD established and supported ACHDE through the development of national standards and quality control protocols.
• The HALO Trust (HALO) cleared 100,000 square meters (25 acres) of contaminated land. HALO also employed and supported four manual teams of the Armenian Peace Keeping Brigade over a period of 22 months, three HALO clearance teams, and one mechanical clearance team.
Also in 2013, the U.S. European Command Humanitarian Mine Action Program with trainers from the Kansas Army National Guard (KANG) provided training, equipment, and supplies to the ACHDE and the Armenian Humanitarian Demining Center. KANG personnel provided training in emergency medical response as well as landmine clearance, and FSD provided IMSMA training. This training period marked the final landmine clearance training, and the Armenians now have an indigenous landmine clearance training capacity. Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid appropriation provided $169,000 in funding for the training .
Azerbaijan’s landmine problem is largely a result of its conflict with Armenia between 1988 and 1994. Additionally, abandoned Soviet-era munitions dumps and unexploded ordnance (UXO) pose a significant threat. The Azerbaijan Landmine Impact Survey (LIS), conducted from September 2002 to June 2003, identified the scope of the mine and UXO problem in accessible territories in the country. The results indicated extensive landmine and UXO contamination in the war-torn districts along the ceasefire line and Azerbaijan’s border with Armenia, especially in the Fizuli district. The area of contamination was reduced to approximately 112 square kilometers (43 square miles) by 2012, as a result of the LIS, re-surveys, and clearance operations. The LIS did not cover areas under the control of Armenia including Nagorno-Karabakh, the Nakhchivan region, or small areas denied access by the military. In the areas occupied by Armenian forces, the extent of the mine and UXO problem is severe.
Since 1993, the United States has invested more than $29.8 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in Azerbaijan aimed at mine and UXO clearance, training, equipment procurement, and expanding humanitarian demining teams as well as mine detection dog teams. These funds were primarily directed through the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action and supported activities that significantly reduced the area of contamination and restored access to land and infrastructure.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $325,000 to the NATO Support Agency to support a clearance project across 19 square kilometers (7 square miles) of the former Soviet military testing facility and training field in the Jeyranchel area along the Azerbaijani-Georgian border.
The 1992–1995 conflicts associated with the break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia left Bosnia and Herzegovina contaminated by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). The country had the highest levels of contamination in the Balkans.
A red sign, featuring the skull and crossbones, warns that a Serb Orthodox cemetery near Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is likely mined. Signs are posted around the entire cemetery, though local Orthodox believers still venture into parts of the cemetery for funerals and other religious commemorations. [Photo courtesy of Steve Gillen/U.S. Embassy Sarajevo]
Since FY1999, the United States has invested more than $96.9 million in Bosnia and Herzegovina for conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs including mine clearance, mine risk education, survivor assistance, munitions stockpile reduction, and physical security and stockpile management. In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $4,445,000 to the following organizations for CWD efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
• ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) cleared landmines and ERW at high-priority sites selected jointly by U.S. Embassy representatives and the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center, and ITF personnel.
• Sterling Global technical advisers helped the Bosnian armed forces reduce their massive stockpile of conventional munitions. They provided oversight of the destruction process and improvements to demilitarization facilities.
Also in FY2013, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) deployed military explosive ordnance disposal personnel to conduct infrastructure development and ERW disposal training for Bosnian mine action agencies. Training included survey, marking, and mapping of ERW contaminated areas, landmine and ERW disposal training, quality assurance and control, and program assessment visits to monitor and improve all aspects of the ERW disposal program. Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid (OHDACA) appropriation funded travel-related costs, and supplies, equipment, and services costs totaling $234,000.
The Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Training Center deployed a landmine clearance subject matter expert to assist in the FY2013 USEUCOM assessments and training efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported by $6,729 of OHDACA funds.
Though mine-free since 1999, Bulgaria continues to face risks from stockpiles of aging conventional arms and munitions remaining from the Cold War era. For example, in 2008, an ammunition depot in Chelopechene, Bulgaria, exploded, destroying the depot and scattering unexploded ordnance into the surrounding area. Nearby homes were damaged and the international airport and a major highway in the capital of Sofia had to temporarily close, resulting in significant economic disruptions.
Since FY1993, the United States has provided more than $10.4 million for conventional weapons destruction programs in Bulgaria. In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided over $2.2 million to the NATO Support Agency (NSPA) to support stockpile reduction and physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) in Bulgaria. NSPA helped Bulgaria as a NATO member reduce its cluster munitions stockpiles and better secure remaining conventional munitions at an armed forces depot.
In October and November 2012, at the request of the Ministry of Defense of Bulgaria and coordinated by the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), a Defense Threat Reduction Agency Small Arms Light Weapons team assessed four long-term ammunition storage sites in Bulgaria. During the assessment the team provided recommendations on practical and procedural PSSM improvements at the sites, as well as a formal report for the ODC concerning suitability and specific requirements to upgrade selected sites to meet international standards. The report will serve as a baseline to ensure efficient and effective assistance to Bulgaria in the future.
Despite extensive clearance efforts, Croatia is still affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) remaining from the Yugoslav conflicts (1992–1995), which left Croatia with the second highest level of contamination in the Balkans. Croatia also faces risks from stockpiles of excess and aging munitions from the Cold War era. In 2011, a brush fire ignited a munitions depot near the town of Knin, Croatia. The resulting explosion destroyed the depot, polluted the surrounding area with UXO, and forced the temporary evacuation of nearby villages.
A bottlenose dolphin trains in the waters of Croatia with members of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program. [Photo courtesy of Bob Olds/U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program]
Since FY1993, the United States has provided more than $35.6 million for conventional weapons destruction programs, including humanitarian mine action, in Croatia.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted more than $1.8 million to support the work of ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) in Croatia and Operation Dolphin 2013, a program in which U.S. Navy-trained dolphins searched for underwater UXO off the coast of Dubrovnik.
Using PM/WRA funding and matching private funds from the American Chamber of Commerce, ITF cleared landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in high-priority areas. ITF also destroyed excess and outdated munitions, including mortars, projectiles, rockets, and fuzes in Croatia.
During Operation Dolphin 2013, U.S. European Command deployed military divers, explosive ordnance disposal, underwater construction, and U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program personnel with six specially trained dolphins to Croatia to conduct a regional underwater ERW exercise with emphasis on underwater technical survey of UXO-contaminated areas. The regional exercise also included the countries of Montenegro and Slovenia and was supported by PM/WRA and funding from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid (OHDACA) appropriation. This event utilized a new system of tools: the Humanitarian Underwater Explosive Detection System, which includes a Side Scan Sonar, magnetometer, Common Operator Interface Navy, and SeeByte computer system and database. In addition to PM/WRA support, OHDACA funded travel-related costs and supplies, equipment, and services costs for Croatia that totaled more than $700,000. In support of this operation, the Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Training Center deployed an underwater UXO disposal operations technical adviser, covered by an additional $10,810 of OHDACA travel funding.
In November 2012, at the request of the Regional Arms Control Verification and Implementation Assistance Centre, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Small Arms Light Weapons Program led a multinational team to Zagreb, Croatia, to conduct a regional physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) technical seminar. The regional seminar oriented 18 participants from six Southeast European countries to international best practices for PSSM.
Landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contaminate the area near the administrative boundary lines (ABL) in the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions due to the Georgian Civil War and a series of inter-ethnic and intra-national conflicts from 1988 to 1993. Contamination also occurred around former Soviet military bases in Georgia. Additionally, in 2008, after a week of fighting between Georgian and Russian forces in South Ossetia, 20 square kilometers (7.8 square miles) of land between the cities of Gori and Tskhinvali were contaminated by cluster munitions. From October 2009 to January 2010, Norwegian People’s Aid conducted a general mine action assessment that identified eight suspected hazardous areas and seven confirmed hazardous areas in 13 districts. Georgia also faces threats from stockpiles of old and deteriorating munitions remaining from the Soviet era.
Since 1998, the United States invested more than $31.3 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in Georgia aimed at training, clearance, and safe disposal of landmines and ERW, and destruction of excess and aging conventional weapons and munitions. In November 2011, as a result of efforts supported by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA), The HALO Trust (HALO) declared all 336 known minefields in the Abkhazia region to be mine impact-free.
In FY2013, PM/WRA provided more than $1.5 million to Georgia for CWD programs that cleared landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) and provided mine risk education and victim assistance as follows:
• HALO cleared mines and UXO in unoccupied Georgian territory. HALO began battle area clearance along previously inaccessible sections of the ABL with South Ossetia, including irrigation canals that provide water to small farms on both sides of the conflict lines. Additionally, the grant supported clearance of UXO from Soviet-era training areas in the Udabno former Soviet firing range in the Khaheti region. Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams based in Sukhumi and Gali operate across the Abkhazia region to dispose of explosive materials turned over by individuals as well as surplus Soviet military ammunition. HALO deployed two EOD teams to conduct surveys, EOD, and mine clearance operations, including clearance of five previously unknown small minefields in Abkhazia.
• NATO Support Agency was responsible for overseeing clearance of surface and subsurface hazards at the Skra military ammunition depot that the Russian military partially destroyed in the August 2008 conflict. Funding also supported specialized EOD training for 66 personnel from the Georgian Army Engineer Brigade. Preparations for active clearance were initiated at the end of 2013, leading to operational clearance later in 2014 when better weather conditions allow full clearance to begin.
Conflicts between the Kosovo Liberation Army and the army of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in the 1990s left Kosovo with landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination. ERW contamination also remains from NATO airstrikes, which led to the withdrawal of FRY forces and ended the conflict. Additionally, Kosovo has residual unexploded ordnance contamination from World War II. As a result of extensive clearance efforts and international support, Kosovo has reached full operational capacity to clear remaining mines and ERW on its own.
A sign erected near a renovated ammunition demilitarization facility on Lithuania’s largest ammunition depot site. The Slovenian organization, ITF Enhancing Human Security, operating with a PM/WRA grant, helped Lithuania improve its national capacity for reducing its aging and excess ammunition stockpile. The sign reads “Depot Service Demilitarization Program funding for this project has been provided by the United States of America.” [Photo courtesy of John Stevens/State Dept. Image]
Since the conflict’s end in 1999, the United States has invested more than $29.2 million for humanitarian mine action in Kosovo. In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted $100,000 to ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) to help build the capacity of the Kosovo Security Force’s Mine Action Center. ITF provided a consultant to analyze the center’s equipment maintenance practices, clearance methodologies, and standard operating procedures. This project marks the completion of U.S. bilateral conventional weapons destruction assistance to Kosovo.
PM/WRA donated three Ford Ranger extended cab pickup trucks to Kosovo’s Mine Action Center. [Photo courtesy of John Stevens/State Dept. Image]
Though there are no known remaining mined areas, Lithuania remains affected by scattered unexploded ordnance from combat during World War II. In addition, the Lithuanian armed forces stockpiles arms and conventional munitions in excess of their national security needs.
In FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted $500,000 to the Slovenian-based ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) to support the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense’s destruction of excess conventional weapons and munitions. Lithuania completed the destruction phase of the project in 2011 with the collaboration of the Czech Ministry of Defense. While no additional funding was provided in FY2013, ITF oversaw the completion of the warehouse upgrade component of the project in December 2013 .
In Serbia, landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) remain from the conflicts that resulted in the breakup of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and from NATO airstrikes that ended ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999. Though the country is not yet impact-free, clearance efforts have reduced contamination, and Serbia has nearly full national capacity to address remaining threats.
From FY1993 to FY2006, the United States provided more than $5.6 million for conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs, including humanitarian mine action, in Serbia and Montenegro, which divided into two countries in 2006. Since FY2007, the United States has invested more than $15.7 million in CWD efforts in Serbia.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $2 million for CWD efforts in Serbia:
• ITF Enhancing Human Security cleared high-priority areas contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), including areas that contain ERW of NATO origin.
• NATO Support Agency destroyed excess stockpiles of outdated and at-risk conventional munitions at the Tehniki Remontni Zavod Kragujevac (TRZ Kragujevac) facility. The United Kingdom led this project.
• South East Europe Clearinghouse for Small Arms and Conventional Munitions participated in a conventional ammunition stockpile management project led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
During the Soviet era, Ukraine was a center for arms production and strategic reserves of conventional munitions. As Soviet forces withdrew from eastern Europe in the early 1990s, they abandoned more munitions on Ukraine’s territory. Consequently, the country now has massive stockpiles of excess and aging conventional arms and ammunition. The NATO Support Agency (NSPA) estimated in 2005 that Ukraine held as many as 7 million small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) and stored as much as 2 million tons of conventional ammunition in over 80 depots designed to contain far less than that.
A female worker tags small arms and light weapons for demilitarization at the Kamyanets-Podilsky factory in Ukraine. [Photo courtesy of NATO Support Agency]
Despite a significant reduction in Ukraine’s SA/LW and ammunition stockpiles through U.S. and internationally funded destruction efforts, remaining munitions depots include large numbers of unserviceable and hazardous items. The large quantities of munitions represent a security threat to both Ukraine, which suffered 10 unplanned explosions at munitions sites between January 1998 and October 2011, and the surrounding region. Many munitions are stored outdoors, further aggravating the safety threat to local populations and to vital infrastructure. Additionally, Ukraine maintains capacity to manufacture man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), and its sizable stocks of MANPADS could pose serious danger to global aviation if they fall into the wrong hands.
The United States is lead nation in an ongoing NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund munitions reduction program that is implemented by NSPA. Following Ukraine’s January 2002 request to NATO for help in demilitarizing its surplus conventional ammunition and SA/LW, a stockpile reduction project commenced in January 2006. Total donor contributions during both phases are more than $22.9 million. Of this amount, U.S. contributions total more than $17.2 million. As of February 2014, international financial support from the United States, the European Commission, Ukraine, and 17 other countries has enabled the destruction of 1,000 MANPADS, 529,074 SA/LW, 332,352 anti-personnel landmines, and 25,200 metric tons (27,778 U.S. tons) of conventional ammunition.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $2 million for conventional ammunition destruction as part of the NATO Trust Fund project.
In addition to its work in other European countries in FY2013, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) provided conventional weapons destruction support to Cyprus, Estonia, and Moldova in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and Humanitarian Demining Training Center.
The efforts were as follows:
• Cyprus: In FY2013, USEUCOM deployed personnel from the U.S. Army in Europe and the DTRA Small Arms Light Weapons Program to conduct courses on advanced destruction methods and an executive stockpile management seminar for the Cypriot National Guard on ordnance destruction and storage procedures. Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid (OHDACA) appropriation funded travel-related expenses and supplies, equipment, and services (SES) costs totaling $76,000.
• Estonia: USEUCOM deployed personnel from the State Partnership Program (SPP) of the Maryland National Guard to Estonia to conduct explosive remnants of war (ERW) disposal training for the Estonian Rescue Board. The training covered emergency medical response, public affairs, and mine risk education. The emergency medical response training consisted of a one-week course on basic emergency medical techniques. OHDACA funded travel-related expenses and SES costs totaling $195,000.
• Moldova: USEUCOM deployed personnel from the Strategic Partnership Program of the North Carolina National Guard to conduct emergency medical procedures and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training. These sessions covered initial training standards and annual training requirements. They also stressed the importance of having standard operating procedures to build modern indigenous training programs in these vital areas. The courses covered demining (survey, marking, mapping, landmine and unexploded ordnance disposal training, and quality assurance and control) and first-responder medical training with emphasis on blast trauma injuries. The courses also included program assessment visits to monitor and improve all aspects of the ERW disposal program. OHDACA funded travel-related expenses and SES costs totaling $154,000.
• Montenegro: As part of Operation Dolphin 2013, OHDACA funded travel-related expenses and SES costs totaling $294,000.
• Slovenia: As part of Operation Dolphin 2013, OHDACA funded travel-related expenses and SES costs totaling $270,000 .