As 164 Countries Ban Landmines, US Holds Fifth-Largest Stockpile of the Weapon

While 164 countries have signed on to an international treaty banning landmines, the U.S. has refused to take part and continues to maintain the world's fifth-largest landmine stockpile.

The U.S. is one of only 12 countries still producing landmines, according to a Landmine Monitor report released by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) on Wednesday. The report revealed that the U.S. and Russia, countries that have not signed onto the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, were "both developing and testing new landmine systems," noting that the countries were "focusing on antivehicle mines" but that efforts "may include victim-activated elements."

The report stated that "2020 was the sixth year in a row with high numbers of recorded casualties due to mines, including improvised types, as well as cluster munition remnants and other explosive remnants of war (ERW)." The report cited at least 7,073 casualties caused by mines and ERWs during the year, including at least 2,492 deaths. At least 80 percent of the casualties were civilian, with children accounting for half of all the civilian casualties where the age was known.

"The continued high number of casualties and disappointingly slow clearance outputs highlight serious and persistent challenges to treaty implementation," Marion Loddo, the report's final editor, said in a statement. "If we are to reach a mine-free world, states must redouble their efforts toward speedy implementation of their obligations and a much more efficient distribution of resources among all affected states and territories."

Landmines Landmine Monitor Report U.S. Stockpile Weapons
The U.S. maintains the world's fifth-largest stockpile of landmines, according to a Landmine Monitor report released on Wednesday. A red sign featuring a skull and crossbones and a warning about landmines is pictured in a field near Phnom Penh, Cambodia in this photo taken on November 27, 2011. TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty

The U.S. had 3 million landmines stockpiled out of a total of around 45 million being kept around the world, according to the report. Russia had the largest stockpile by a considerable margin, consisting of 26.5 million mines. Pakistan, India and China also maintained stockpiles ranging from 6 million mines in Pakistan to the "under 5 million" said to be held by China.

The U.S. and Cuba are the only countries in the Americas that have not signed on to the Mine Ban Treaty, which is also known as the Ottawa Convention. However, the report noted that the U.S. was by far the largest donor to efforts to eliminate the mines. The $204.8 million donated by the U.S. in 2020 represented over double the contributions of the European Union, which was the next-largest donor.

The ICBL has urged the U.S. and other countries that are not a part of the treaty to join over 80 percent of the world by signing the agreement. The landmine policies of former President Donald Trump were specifically criticized in the report. Trump rolled back a 2014 policy implemented by former President Barack Obama that banned production and acquisition of antipersonnel mines and prohibited mines from being used by the U.S. anywhere outside of the Korean Peninsula, as part of an effort "to advance the humanitarian aims of the Ottawa Convention."

Although President Joe Biden pledged to reverse Trump's policy while campaigning for president, his administration has yet to do so pending a review of the policy. In April, Pentagon spokesman Mike Howard called antipersonnel mines "a vital tool in conventional warfare." The administration's position drew condemnation from a group of 21 bipartisan lawmakers who wrote Biden a letter in June urging the president to reinstate the Obama-era policy and sign the Mine Ban Treaty.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.