04.07.22

Statement On Russian Landmines

. . . . Congressional Record

Mr. LEAHY.  Among the many barbaric atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine where civilian infrastructure including hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings have been repeatedly bombed and shelled and countless civilians have been summarily executed in the streets, The New York Times reports today that the Russians are using a new kind of landmine.

This mine, called the POM-3, is inherently indiscriminate like other mines in that it cannot distinguish between a civilian and a combatant, and it is apparently equipped with a sensor that triggers the explosive when a person approaches.  With a kill radius of 50 feet, it is even more deadly than a typical anti-personnel mine.  And, unlike typical landmines, it cannot be disarmed by a human deminer because anyone who approaches it is likely to become a victim before reaching it.  So it will be necessary to use robots to clear these mines, at great additional time and expense.  As in other countries affected by armed conflict, it will be many years, and almost certainly decades after the fighting ends, before the people of Ukraine can walk safely without fear of mines and other unexploded ordnance.

Human beings seem to have an unlimited capacity to devise new ways of destroying the lives of others.  Landmines are especially insidious, because they maim or kill whoever comes into contact with them, or, in the case of the POM-3, whosever’s footsteps it detects.  It could be anyone, including a young child. 

No matter how “sophisticated” the technology, mines are an exceedingly primitive weapon because they are designed to be indiscriminate in an age of so-called “precision” munitions.  Mines are the opposite.  While landmines are so easy to make that it will never be possible to completely eliminate them, in 1997 the international community took an historic step, thanks in large part to the leadership of former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and the tireless advocacy of the International Campaign to Ban landmines. 

In December of that year, countries came together to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, known informally as the Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty.  Today, the treaty has 164 states parties.  But one of the reasons anti-personnel mines have yet to be universally stigmatized is because key countries including Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and the United States have not joined the treaty. 

Of course, when one country joins a treaty it does not guarantee that others will.  But the more countries that do, the harder it is for others to fail to do so, as they become the outliers, the pariahs.  So if the United States, which has not used anti-personnel mines since 1991, were to join the treaty it would not guarantee that Russia would.  But it would greatly enhance our credibility to call out their use of mines, their devastating effects on innocent civilians, and the need to universalize the treaty. 

In 1994, President Clinton, at the United Nations, called for ridding the world of anti-personnel mines.  He also directed the Pentagon to develop alternatives.  They never did.  While we can drive a robot on Mars 100 million miles away, our own military continues to stockpile landmines that are triggered by the victim.  Whether a U.S. soldier or a child, our landmines, like Russian landmines, cannot tell the difference. 

If anything good can come of this catastrophic and senseless war in Ukraine, it would be for the international community to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes, and for the United States to once and for all renounce the use of anti-personnel landmines.  These are not weapons that belong in the arsenals of civilized nations, and certainly not in the arsenal of the most powerful, modern military on Earth.  Let us be the country that not only denounces their use in Ukraine, but denounces and renounces their use everywhere.  What a gift to the world that would be.

I ask unanimous consent that The New York Times article entitled “New Russian Land Mine Poses Special Risk in Ukraine” be printed in the Record.

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