The Global Politics of Landmines

landmines_credit_Mary_WarehamIn a surprising move, the White House issued a statement declaring that it would no longer produce or purchase anti-personnel landmines and it would not update its existing stockpile. The announcement came at a meeting in Mozambique on the Ottawa Convention, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty. The Convention, technically a United Nations treaty, has been signed by 161 states, but not by the United States, China, or Russia, the world’s three largest producers of landmines. The United State stopped short of saying it would join the treaty, but a statement issued by National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said that the United States was “diligently pursuing solutions that [might] ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention.”

The United States has long maintained that it supports the humanitarian concerns expressed under the treaty, and the US government has provided more than $2 billion to aid in mine clearance efforts around the world. But it also maintained a stockpile of more than 10 million mines, and had continued efforts to develop “next generation” mines that could be remotely activated and deactivated. It had also asserted that mines were a central part of plans to protect US forces, most notably in the Korean peninsula, where a minefield with more than 1.2 million mines have been deployed.

At the same time, there is considerable pressure on the United States to join the treaty, and with more than 160 signatories, a strong case could be made that the anti-landmine effort represents a growing international consensus. But given the anarchic nature of the international system, some question whether it is in the national interest for the United States to limit its options in future conflicts.

What do you think? Should the United States join the Ottawa Convention? Why?

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