Finland cancels plans to use cluster weapons to replace infantry land mines
Finland is to destroy the last of its infantry land mines five years from now, as originally planned. However, the government is dropping plans to replace the mines with cluster weapons.
On Thursday, the government gave its approval to a legislative proposal under which Finland would join the Ottawa Treaty to ban anti-personnel mines. The bill still requires the approval of Parliament.
The timetable to phase out the controversial land mines was set already in 2004. However, now the aim is to replace the infantry mines with a “wide repertoire” of equipment and methods of action, says Arto Räty, Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Defence.
The initial plan was to replace the land mines with cluster weapons, in which up to hundreds of small bomblets are scattered from a single shell or bomb, and scattered over a wide area. In 2007 more than 100 countries have approved a proposal to ban cluster weapons.
“Finland will not buy cluster weapons, nor does it plan to buy cluster weapons”, declared Stefan Wallin (Swed. People’s Party) by e-mail on Thursday.
Arto Räty says that no Western countries sell cluster weapons any more, even though they are part of the armouries of the United States, Russia, China, and Israel.
Infantry land mines have been a part of Finland’s regional defences, as a way of defending terrain, and of making it more difficult to clear away anti-tank mines.
To replace the infantry land mines the Defence Forces would use a combination of directional mines, night-vision equipment, and personal armour, Räty says.
Räty says that the defence needs that had been addressed by infantry land mines are changing, but are not going away completely in a situation in which modern military forces have less personnel, but more firepower.
About EUR 200 million has been budgeted between 2009 and 2016 for the phasing out of infantry land mines. Räty would not speculate on the impact that possible budget cuts would have on the years that remain.
Finland is following what kinds of weapons systems are being developed around the world to replace cluster weapons.
The last of Finland’s infantry land mines are to be destroyed by the end of 2016.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish cluster weapon purchases raise criticism among NGOs meeting in Peru (24.5.2007)
Cluster weapon ban treaty could end development and trade in weapons sought by Finland (4.12.2008)
Finland not to join cluster weapon ban (3.11.2008)