"Infantry land mines are much less useful than imagined", says British land mine expert Paddy Blagden.
Blagden is a retired brigadier general who led a UN mine-sweeping unit in the 1990s. On Tuesday he appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament to discuss the military usefulness of land mines, and the possibility of replacing them.
As Blagden sees it, land mines are a rather ineffective weapons system in modern warfare. He noted that it is fairly easy for well-equipped forces to push through mine fields. Consequently, the weapons mainly hurt civilians after a war is over.
Blagden has written a report for the International Red Cross examining the land mine question mainly from the point of view of wars fought in Third World countries.
The Finnish government decided in its report on national defence this autumn that Finland would join the Ottawa Treaty banning land mines in 2012.
This means that Finland’s last infantry mines would be destroyed in 2016.
"It is a bit sad that people want to preserve a weapon which is actually quite stupid. There are still armies that think that they are safe when they have infantry land mines", Blagden commented.
He did not see it as a great problem from Finland’s point of view that Russia does not plan to join the Ottawa Treaty.
The general said that he was aware that mines were used in the wars between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939 - 1944, but he was not convinced that they had been successfully removed from the area after the fighting was over.
"If they were, then people were much smarter then than they are now", he commented.