A Global Call to Action: De-Mining Ukraine Requires International Collaboration and Investment
By Daniel Rice
The war in Ukraine is ongoing, and while the focus is on winning battles and planning reconstruction, one critical aspect is being overlooked: de-mining. As the Russian invasion has left millions of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) and landmines across 27% of Ukraine's territory, we must take urgent action to prevent further civilian casualties and ensure the future prosperity of the region. It is time for an international effort on the scale of the Marshall Plan or the Manhattan Project to address this monumental challenge.
The Ukraine National DeMining Center Commander and his team are working tirelessly to clear mines and UXOs, but they are severely under-funded, under-staffed, and under-resourced. The sheer scale of the problem necessitates a global response. World powers and international organizations must come together and pool resources to fund a multi-billion-dollar effort that coordinates governmental, non-governmental, and private sector efforts.
The priority for demining should be clearing critical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, railways, and power stations. This task alone is monumental, requiring highly specialized personnel and equipment. For example, combat-trained SCUBA divers are needed to clear bridges of mines and UXOs.
The farmland is another critical area for demining. Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of the world, has at least 2.5 million hectares of land littered with ordnance, making it unusable for farming. This has significant implications not only for Ukraine's economy but also for global food security. The land could potentially generate $6 billion per year in agricultural exports, and this opportunity cost must be factored into any financial analysis of the demining initiative.
The U.S. State Department's recent $89 million contract for 100 de-mining teams is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. Companies like John Deere, Caterpillar, and Case New Holland should be incentivized to develop and manufacture advanced demining equipment. Furthermore, drone companies should compete for contracts to map, identify, and safely destroy UXOs, with satellite imagery used to coordinate efforts.
As the President of the American University Kyiv, I recognize the moral responsibility we have to be involved in all aspects of this conflict. We seek to support the de-mining challenge by organizing a conference in Washington D.C., bringing together experts from the de-mining industry, the agricultural sector, drone companies, NGOs, aid agencies, and financial institutions.
The time for action is now. The world must come together and commit to a Marshall Plan or Manhattan Project-level initiative to clear Ukraine of mines and UXOs. Doing so will not only save lives but also ensure the economic and agricultural future of Ukraine and its people and feed the world. The cost of inaction is too great to bear.