The United States’ enduring Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) priorities for Europe and Eurasia are to prevent illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) and unplanned explosions at munitions sites through physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) programs, and to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) left from the Yugoslav Wars and from ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine. These explosive hazards still cause injuries and deaths and prevent the safe and productive use of land. To combat this lingering threat and promote increased economic activity, the United States supports regional security and builds national capacity through a military stockpile reduction initiative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, clears cluster munitions from the Kosovo conflict, performs PSSM activities in Serbia, is finalizing UXO clearance in Albania, and is performing PSSM and battle area clearance in Ukraine. Since 1993, the United States has supported extensive efforts to rid Eastern and Southern Europe of the vestiges of past conflicts, providing more than $485 million in CWD support.
The Kosovo conflict 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 free since 2009. The country also had significant UXO contamination, particularly at more than a dozen hotspots. These include former military impact ranges, depots that exploded during civil unrest in 1997, and the Gerdec military depot explosion in 2008. The catastrophic accident at Gerdec killed 26 Albanians, injured over 300 more, and destroyed or damaged over 700 homes. Since then, the United States helped Albania clear UXO from 1,945,294 square meters (480 acres) of land. In all, over 108,000 projectiles were removed and destroyed from the Gerdec site. At other locations, 62,696 dangerous unexploded ordnance, 131,701 rounds of small arms ammunition, and 3,049 SA/LW were found and destroyed since 2009 with U.S. assistance. In March 2020, the United States graduated the United States’ clearance program in Albania. In doing so, the United States provided Albanian Armed Forces (AAF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units with equipment and training in international clearance standards to address residual contamination with AAF clearance teams. This is not the end of the United States’ commitment to Albanian peace and security. As UXO clearance winds down, the United States will continue its partnership with Albania to improve security and safety at its munitions storage facilities. This includes a $1.3 million project to enhance infrastructure and stockpile management practices at two Ministry of Defense (MOD) sites and one Ministry of Interior site. The United States will continue to invest in Albania’s SA/LW and stockpile management priorities.
From 2000 to 2020, the United States invested more than $50 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Albania for efforts that included hotspot clearance, PSSM, and SA/LW projects. Highlights from 2020 include:
- ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) completed U.S.- funded clearance in Albania prior to handing over this program to the Albanian Armed Forces (AAF) to address remaining contamination resulting from prior depot explosions. Through ITF and NPA, the United States donated one vehicle, one large loop detector, 10 radios, 17 Ebinger detectors, 10 Schondstedt detectors, 28 personnel protective equipment (PPE) vests, 45 PPE visors, and medical supplies. AAF EOD teams also received training to address remaining contamination at the Jude Sukth site and began clearance operations independent of U.S. assistance.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) initiated additional security updates for the Ministry of Interior facility in Mullet to international standards (continuing the work done in FY2019), allowing safer and more secure weapons storage by the Albanian State Police (ASP). UNDP/SEESAC also conducted PSSM training for key personnel.
- UNDP/SEESAC completed physical security and safety upgrades at the Ministrry of Defense’s (MOD) Mirake facility and installed 70 secure small arms lockers in the Zall-Herr facility.
- ITF and UNDP/SEESAC, with U.S. funding, provided final support to the Albanian Mine and Munitions Coordination Office (AMMCO). In additional to operational support, the U.S. donated two vehicles for AMMCO to conduct work.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Over 25 years since the Dayton Accords ended war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country remains heavily contaminated with landmines and UXO. Most remaining minefields exist around formerly strategic areas along the inter-entity boundary line between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. As of late 2020, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC) estimated that 965 million square meters (238,456 acres) of its territory remained either suspected or confirmed hazardous areas.
From 1996 to 2020, the United States invested more than $124 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina for efforts that included landmine clearance, mine risk education, survivor assistance, and munitions stockpile destruction. Highlights from 2020 include:
- In coordination with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministry of Defense and U.S. Embassy Sarajevo, Tetra Tech destroyed 359 U.S. tons (220,667 items) of excess, obsolete arms and ammunition.
- ITF returned 2,357,721 square meters (583 acres) of land to productive use through manual demining or technical survey throughout the country by utilizing local, private operators working in close coordination with U.S. Embassy Sarajevo and BHMAC.
- ITF, in partnership with the Mine Detection Dog Center of Bosnia and Herzegovina (MDDC) and the Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) initiated the Sarajevo Free of Mines project in 2020. This project aims to make Sarajevo and four surrounding municipalities mine-impact free. In 2020, this project enabled the safe return of 2.5 million square meters (619 acres) of land back to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, utilizing land release methodology.
- Mines Advisory Group (MAG) continued land release projects, returning 668,922 square meters (165 acres) to local communities.
- MLI also continued its Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS). Through CHAMPS, MLI provided mine risk education to over 51,500 individuals, provided 23 landmine survivors with prosthetics and rehabilitative care, and connected schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina with schools in the United States to learn about mine risk education.
Croatia is still affected by extensive legacy landmines and UXO contamination from the Yugoslav Wars and maintains a robust commercial demining sector. The Croatian government funds most demining projects, in addition to research and development for demining-related technologies. Croatia also possesses a stockpile of conventional arms and ammunition inherited from the Yugoslav national military that exceeds its national defense requirements, and the United States continues to support demilitarization of these munitions to better meet its defense requirements.
From 1999 to 2020, the United States invested more than $42 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Croatia for efforts that included landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) clearance and munitions stockpile destruction. Highlights from 2020 include:
- ITF worked with the MOD to demilitarize or destroy 980.4 U.S. tons (47,984 items) of excess or aging munitions.
UXO contamination in Kosovo resulted primarily from the conflict between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s, and later between the FRY and NATO forces in 1999. The United States committed $5 million for CWD efforts in Kosovo in 2020. Set to be implemented over four years (2021-2025), this assistance is expected to return approximately 2.6 million square meters (642 acres) of hazardous land back to the people of Kosovo. This contribution will address high-impact sites contaminated with cluster munitions and UXO, eventually turning over residual landmine contamination for national authorities to address with their own national capacity. As of January 2021, the Kosovo Mine Action Center (KMAC) reported 11.4 million square meters of cluster munitions-contaminated land (2,817 acres across 45 sites) and 1.2 million square meters (297 acres) of mine-contaminated land.
From 1996 to 2020, the United States invested more than $42 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Kosovo for technical survey, non-technical survey, and battle area clearance. Highlights from 2020 include:
- The HALO Trust (HALO) returned 265,966 square meters (66 acres) of land to local populations by conducting survey and battle area clearance.
- NPA returned over 1.3 million square meters (330 acres) of land to local communities by performing survey and BAC activities.
Montenegro’s UXO contamination stems from the conflicts during the breakup of the former FRY in the 1990s, including U.S. and NATO air strikes between March and June 1999.
From 2007 to 2020, the United States invested more than $12.5 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Montenegro. Highlights from 2020 include:
- ITF continued a PSSM project to reduce national stocks of excess and obsolete small arms and ammunition and improve munitions storage facilities. In 2020, 123.6 U.S. tons of munitions were demilitarized.
Serbia’s landmine and UXO contamination is the result of World War II, the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, and NATO air strikes targeting military sites during Operation Allied Force in 1999. In addition to UXO, landmine contamination remains along Serbia’s border with Kosovo. As of December 2020, 1.05 million square meters (259 acres) of land remain as confirmed or suspected hazardous areas contaminated with landmines in the municipality of Bujanovac. Cluster munition contamination remains confirmed or suspected in five municipalities for a total area of 2.09 million square meters (519 acres). Serbia also faces additional risks of illicit proliferation and unplanned explosions of the large stockpiles of aging ammunition it inherited from the former Yugoslav National Army.
From 2007 to 2020, the United States invested more than $23.5 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Serbia supporting SA/LW and ammunition destruction programs and reducing mine and UXO contamination. Highlights from 2020 include:
- ITF cleared and released 704,845 (174 acres) of land in Bujanovac, Niš, Raška, Sjenica, and Tutin that was formerly contaminated with cluster munitions and landmines.
- NATO Support and Procurement Agency utilized the Tehnički Remontni Zavod Kragujevac munitions demilitarization facility to dispose of 431.7 U.S. tons of surplus munitions from Serbian MOD conventional stockpiles.
- UNDP/SEESAC continued plans to enhance the safety and security of a Ministry of Interior storage site.
Ukraine continues to address the legacy of the massive quantities of conventional arms and ammunition it inherited after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as well as significant ERW contamination from its ongoing conflict with Russia-led forces in eastern Ukraine. The now seven-year long conflict has resulted in a line of contact between the Ukrainian government and the anti-government forces that Russia arms, trains, leads, and fights alongside. The line of contact running through the Donetsk and Luhansk regions suffers from extensive landmine and UXO contamination. These explosive hazards pose a major threat to thousands of Ukrainians living in the conflict area. In 2020, there were 16 civilian and 12 military ERW-related deaths and 68 civilian and 39 military ERW-related injuries in eastern Ukraine. Regarding Ukrainian stockpiles, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) estimated in 2005 that Ukraine held as many as seven million SA/LW and stored as much as two million metric tons of ammunition in more than 80 depots. Most of these munitions are excess, aging, potentially unstable, and no longer suitable for use representing a significant security and proliferation threat to the country and the region.
From 2004 to 2020, the United States invested more than $68 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Ukraine for SA/LW and ammunition destruction, as well as battle area clearance operations. Highlights from 2020 include:
- HALO cleared and returned 824,052 square meters (204 acres) of land to local communities. HALO also conducted 33 risk education sessions in eastern Ukraine.
- Danish Demining Group (DDG) continued to enhance the capacity of State Emergency Services (SES) personnel with international mine action standards (IMAS)-compliant standard operating procedures (SOPs). SOPs were completed, validated, and disseminated to all SES regional directorates and relevant units. In mid-2020, DDG began planning and procurement of U.S.–funded clearance operations which will return land back to local populations in government-controlled areas.
- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Project Coordinator Unit continued advising the Government of Ukraine on establishing a national authority in humanitarian mine action (HMA) and coordinating relevant mine action stakeholders. In 2020, the Ukrainian parliament passed legislation to establish its National Mine Action Authority (NMAA). Additionally, the United States contributed to an OSCE project aimed at enhancing the capabilities of Ukraine’s National Police in countering explosive hazards, to include detecting the illicit trafficking of SA/LW, ammunition, and explosives.
- The United States is the lead nation for the NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund Project (PfPTF), which demilitarizes and destroys excess munitions to lower the risk of unplanned explosions at munitions sites and reduce the security threat they pose. The United States funded the destruction or demilitarization of 1,855 U.S. tons of munitions via the PfPTF, with NSPA as its implementing partner. Additionally, through the PfPTF, the United States and Germany funded an e-management system for ammunition and SA/LW, which will enhance and modernize the management of the MOD’s strategic weapons and ammunition stockpiles. The United States also funded the modernization of testing laboratories to enhance the lifecycle maintenance of ammunition, as well as procured box-making machines for storage facilities to implement NATO-standard hazard classification organization and munitions storage.
- To help Ukraine more safely and securely store its munitions stockpiles in accordance with international standards, HALO continued infrastructure upgrades at an MOD Munitions storage facility.
For more information on U.S. humanitarian demining and CWD programs, check out the latest edition of our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety.
For further information, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at PM-CPA@state.gov, and follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter, @StateDeptPM.