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 (UEMS) 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 War, performs PSSM activities in Serbia, is finalizing UXO hotspot 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 Europe of the vestiges of past conflicts, providing more than $447 million in CWD support.
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-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 unexploded ordnance from 1,945,294 square meters (480 acres) of land at eight of the depot explosion sites across the country. 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 clerance teams. This is not the end of the United States’ commitment to Albanian peace and security. As demining assistance 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 2019, the United States invested more than $47.2 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Albania for efforts that included hotspot clearance, PSSM, and SA/LW projects. Highlights from 2019 include:
- ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) cleared and released 166,828 square meters (41 acres) of land and found and destroyed 4,798 UXO and 16,159 small arms ammunition (SAA) at Sinanaj-Tepelenë, a former munitions depot site, completing all existing work at the site. ITF and NPA also continued technical survey and clearance of contaminated hotspots in Jube Sukth, returning 16,789 square meters (4 acres) of land to the local community and removing over 230 pieces of UXO.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) completed security upgrades for the Ministry of Interior facility in Mullet to international standards, allowing safer and more secure weapons storage by the Albanian State Police (ASP). UNDP/SEESAC also conducted capacity building training to 20 ASP participants in stockpile management.
- UNDP/SEESAC continued physical security and safety upgrades at the MOD Mirake and Zall-Herr facilities.
- ITF and UNDP/SEESAC, with U.S. funding, continued support to the Albanian Mine and Munitions Coordination Office.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Over 20 years after the breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent regional conflicts, Bosnia and Herzegovina 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 2019, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC) estimated that 992 million square meters (245,129 acres) of its territory remained either suspected hazardous areas (SHA) or confirmed hazardous areas (CHA).
From 1996 to 2019, the United States invested more than $117 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina for efforts that included landmine clearance, mine risk education (MRE), survivor assistance, and munitions stockpile destruction. Highlights from 2019 include:
- In coordination with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministry of Defense and U.S. Embassy Sarajevo, Tetra Tech destroyed 538 U.S. tons (613,659 items) of excess, obsolete arms and ammunition.
- ITF returned 777,966 square meters (192 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 2019. This project aims to make Sarajevo and five surrounding municipalities mine-impact free. In 2019, this project enabled the safe return of 1.3 million square meters (321 acres) of land back to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, utilizing land release methodology.
- Mines Advisory Group (MAG) continued land release projects, returning 666,070 square meters (165 acres) to local communities.
- MLI also continued its Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS). Through CHAMPS, MLI provided mine risk education (MRE) to over 10,662 individuals, provided 14 landmine survivors with prosthetics and rehabilitative care, and connected schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina with schools in the United States to learn about MRE.
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 2019, the United States invested more than $40.6 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Croatia for efforts that included landmine and ERW clearance and munitions stockpile destruction. Highlights from 2019 include:
- ITF completed safety and security upgrades to two munitions storage facilities for the MOD near Split and Ploče.
- ITF also worked closely with the MOD to demilitarize or destroy 159 U.S. tons (4,705 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 September 2019. Set to be implemented over four years (2020-2023), this assistance is expected to return approximately 4.3 million square meters (1,060 acres) of hazardous land back to the people of Kosovo. This is the largest single contribution of conventional weapons destruction funding from the United States to Kosovo since the United States began this program in 1996. 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 February 2020, the Kosovo Mine Action Center (KMAC) reported 14.3 million square meters of cluster munitions-contaminated land (45 sites) and 934,616 square meters of mine-contaminated land (31 sites). Mixed landmine and cluster munitions sites represent an additional 425,000 square meters of land (4 sites).
From 1996 to 2019, the United States invested more than $37.4 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Kosovo for technical survey, non-technical survey, and battle area clearance. Highlights from 2019 include:
- The HALO Trust (HALO) returned 617,015 square meters (152 acres) of land to local populations by conducting survey and battle area clearance (BAC).
- NPA returned 1.1 million square meters (272 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 2019, the United States invested more than $11.1 million in CWD programs undertaken by implementing partners in Montenegro. Highlights from 2019 include:
- ITF continued a PSSM project to reduce national stocks of excess and obsolete small arms and ammunition and improve munitions storage facilities. In 2019, 43 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 2019, 1.2 million square meters (297 acres) of land remain as CHAs or SHAs with landmines in the municipality of Bujanovac. Cluster munition contamination remains confirmed or suspected in five municipalities for a total area of 2.4 million square meters (593 acres). Serbia also faces additional risks of illicit proliferation and UEMS of the large stockpiles of aging ammunition it inherited from the former Yugoslav National Army.
From 2007 to 2019, the United States invested more than $22.5 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 2019 include:
- ITF cleared and released 119,344 square meters (30 acres) of former cluster munitions-contaminated land in Niš.
- ITF, in partnership with the United States and the Government of Japan, enabled the safe restoration of 389,200 square meters (96 acres) of land to productive use in the municipality of Bujanovac through manual clearance and technical survey.
- NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) completed infrastructure improvements to the Tehnicki Remontni Zavod Kraguevac (TRZK) demilitarization facility to more safely demilitarize and destroy munitions under the NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund (PfPTF). U.S. funding also procured melt-out equipment to enhance the capacity and capability of TRZK.
- UNDP/SEESAC initiated 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 six-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 2019 there were 11 civilian and 15 military ERW-related deaths and 48 civilian and 13 military UXO-related injuries in eastern Ukraine. Regarding Ukrainian stockpiles, 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 2019, the United States invested more than $55.1 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 2019 include:
- HALO cleared and returned 338,775 square meters (84 acres) of land to local communities. HALO also conducted 94 MRE 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. Using DDG, the United States also provided the following to SES demining units: five vehicles, 60 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), 10 F3 detectors, four large loop detectors, 4,334 supply items for manual demining toolkits, 12 radios, 18 non-technical survey toolkits, two remote firing device controllers, six remote firing device receivers, and 1,332 medical equipment supplies.
- 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. The OSCE Project Coordinator also expanded the information management system for mine action (IMSMA) training, which helps to systematize and store data on specific geographical areas contaminated by ERW.
- The United States funded the destruction or demilitarization of 817 U.S. tons of munitions via the PfPTF, with NSPA as its implementing partner. Additionally, through the PfPTF with NSPA as the implementer, 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. The United States is the lead nation for the PfPTF, which demilitarizes and destroys excess munitions to lower the risk of UEMS and reduce the security threat they pose.
- To help Ukraine more safely and securely store its munitions stockpiles in accordance with international standards, HALO continued infrastructure upgrades at MOD facilities.
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.