Land mines maim and kill long after a conflict is over. I’ve recently seen this firsthand as a security consultant to the United Nations in Azerbaijan, where hundreds of thousands of mines remain a threat even after the Azerbaijan-Armenian conflict ended. This lesson will have to be relearned in Ukraine, as civilians will eventually have to deal with the tens of thousands of land mines that Russian soldiers laid to impede the current Ukrainian offensive. They will kill innocents long after the war ends, as will “duds” from cluster bombs from both sides.
We need increased international efforts to address leftover land mines globally. Land mines, scattered along the former front lines between Azerbaijan and Armenia, turn the area into kill zones. According to the Azerbaijani Mine Action Agency, more than 150 civilians have died and more than 400 have been injured. Leftover land mines hinder agricultural activities, restricting access to fertile lands and undermining food security. They obstruct the safe reconstruction of critical infrastructure, hampering the recovery and exacerbating poverty.
Wherever mines remain after a conflict ends, they not only render agricultural lands unusable, but they also destroy delicate ecosystems. This environmental degradation endures for generations.
Addressing the dangers more globally requires strong, multilateral action. International organizations, such as the United Nations and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, play a crucial role in fostering global cooperation, advocating for mine clearance efforts, providing assistance for survivors and promoting legislative frameworks to prevent further use of mines.
Whenever the Ukrainian conflict ends, it will likely take many decades to remove the anti-tank and anti-personnel land mines. More civilians will die before that happens. This is why it is vital to pressure the involved parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and conventions, such as the Ottawa Treaty, which bans anti-personnel mines.
I have seen the damage done by mines in my long military and U.N. careers in places like Egypt (Sinai), Cambodia, Lebanon, Iraq and, now, Azerbaijan. I don’t want to see it anymore.
Robert Bruce Adolph is a former senior Army Special Forces soldier and United Nations security chief. In May 2022, he served as mission leader for a multinational team in support of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Ukraine. More recently, he served as a security consultant to the U.N. in Azerbaijan. To learn more, visit his website at robertbruceadolph.com.