Peace Time: A Cold War Curse is Curbed

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December 21, 2007: One legacy of the Cold War that still hurts, literally, is the continued presence of land mines from communist countries. During the Cold War, the communist nations were big fans of landmines, liberally planting them on their borders, and exporting them to anyone who would take them. These landmines were also a favorite weapon of war. Russia dropped millions of them in Afghanistan, often without recording where they put them. China and Russia sold, or gave, tens of millions of landmines to client states, or rebel movements. These ended up being used largely against civilians, as weapons of terror.

Since then, an international effort has spent nearly $4 billion to clear up all these mines. The U.S. contributed about a third of the cash, and a lot of the new technology. A 1997 international treaty banning landmines did nothing to stop the largest supplier; China. Moreover, you can get simple plans, for building your own landmines, from the Internet. Some leftist rebel groups are doing just that, and landmines continue to be used as a weapon of terror. But casualties have come way down because of the aggressive mine clearing efforts. Annual, worldwide, casualties from landmines have declined from 26,000 in 2004, to 3,000 this year.

 


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