In 2008 about 20 EU member states signed a treaty in Oslo banning the use of cluster munitions. Conspicuous by their absence were the US, Russia and China, which had all announced earlier they would not sign. More surprising was the absence of Finland, which has its own reasons for keeping cluster munitions in its inventory. The major players such as the United Kingdom and France did sign.
Defense of the strongest
For Finland, accession to the Ottawa Convention and giving up anti-personnel landmines is a solution affected on the one hand by political and, on the other hand, by military-economic factors. Finland says it needs cluster munitions to adequately defend its 1,300 kilometers long border with Russia. The reason might be understandable because Finland has its own experience with Russian expansionism and aggression. Still what is the USA, Russia or China’s reason? These states do not need to worry about attacks of a bigger and stronger enemy. These countries have their own responsibility for victims of landmines in Afghanistan, Vietnam or Korea. Even until these days, clearing decades-old minefields has not always been possible. It is often risky, dangerous and time-consuming.
Who are the victims?
People in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Mozambique, Croatia or Lebanon etc. have their own experience with landmines. Horrific stories and pictures from all around the world often show that civilians were the main landmine casualties in large numbers — and have continued to be so for years after the warring factions left the battlefield (with the mines still there). The main human victims are unfortunately innocent children. Finding resources to help rehabilitate survivors has proven difficult. Moreover, people are not always the only victims; these are also animals which cannot understand the warning sign. A bloody example could be Sri Lanka where many wild animals have died or been injured. In elephant farms in Sri Lanka the danger of landmines is clearly visible. There are non-human victims of these weapons – elephants with parts of their legs amputated.
So, shouldn’t people make pressure on their own ‘landmines-loving’ governments to change their attitude to the Ottawa Convention?