Support: Ukraine Deals with the Aftermath


October 1, 2023: The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine will linger for decades after the Russians are defeated because the fighting leaves a lot of unexploded munitions, including landmines that were planted and never removed. This was often because whoever planted them kept no records or was killed before they could turn in a sketch showing where the mines were. Even when these mine maps are distributed, the enemy doesn’t get a copy. Russian forces planted lots of mines and often did not make maps if they did not leave safe pathways through the minefield. Ukraine is calling for EOD help from NATO nations and facing the prospects of paying for the cost of training and equipping Ukrainian EOD technicians. EOD work was already a profession before the Russians invaded because Ukraine is still dealing with World War II and earlier EOD issues. Unexploded munitions can remain lethal for over a century while most become less lethal as time passes and the explosives suffer from chemical degradation. Some portions of the World War I front line in France, like the area around Verdun, are still fenced off because there are so many unexploded munitions in the ground.

An earlier incidence of this appeared in Iraq where there were two previous wars involving lots of uncharted minefields and unexploded munitions in the 20 years prior to 9/11, and worse things than those after 9/11 – Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The Iraqi army had a severe shortage of support troops in general, particularly combat engineers trained and equipped for clearing roadside bombs and other IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices.) The Iraqis did have hundreds of EOD technicians. This was because the 1980s war with Iran left a lot of unexploded bombs, shells and mines along the Iran/Iraq border, providing lots of work for EOD people. But EOD work mainly requires skilled operators using simple tools. To deal with IEDs effectively, you need some specialized, and expensive, equipment. The U.S. Army and Marines have special armored vehicles (mainly Cougars), built to survive a nearby IED explosion, and equipped with vidcams and other sensors to find IEDs before they go off. The American EOD specialists also have robots to do the dangerous, close work.

Since Iraqi troops have taken over security for many of the rebellious Sunni Arab areas in the last year, American combat engineers have been assigned to go in and clear out the worst infestations of IEDs in areas controlled by Iraqi troops. The terrorists, taking advantage of the Iraqi army shortage of combat engineers, have planted thousands of IEDs. In some areas, there are 3-4 of these explosives per kilometer of road. The Iraqi army simply didn’t have enough EOD teams to handle that.

So American engineers came in to help clear out the worst infestations. Then, the American EOP specialists taught their Iraqi counterpart’s techniques for keeping the roads free of the bombs. This is usually something as simple as some watch towers and night vision devices. If the Iraqis man those towers 24/7, the terrorists won't be able to plant bombs.

The Americans like having some Iraqi troops going out with the engineers. The Americans know that, sometimes, the terrorists will pay civilians to sort of wander past the U.S. engineers, trying to spot techniques being used to clear the bombs. This makes it possible for the terrorists to build bombs that are more difficult to clear. But with some Iraqi troops along, these spies can not only be more readily shooed away, but sometimes identified and arrested.

Eventually, many Iraqi engineers were provided with new EOD technology, as in MRAPS (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected), electronic mine detectors, EOD robots, plus techniques like predictive analysis to determine the likely locations for EOD teams to work. Gradually, IEDs became less dangerous in Iraq. For example, in 2006, it took about five IEDs to cause one coalition casualty (11 percent of them fatal) in Iraq. By 2008 it took nine IEDs per casualty (12 percent of them fatal). The density of unexploded munitions in Ukraine is not as bad as Iraq but the solutions are the same. Britain has taken the lead in training and equipping new Ukrainian EOD technicians. Britain has set up training centers in Poland. Ukrainian trainees cross the border, take the course and return to Ukraine with new skills and often the specialized EOD equipment. Britain has already trained over 23,000 Ukrainian troops in Poland and Britain on EOD techniques.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close