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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

USA: Changes in Landmine Policy

USA: Changes in Landmine Policy
Date distributed (ymd): 980611
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +security/peace+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains three recent background documents noting changes in U.S. policy on anti-personnel landmines. The U.S. is now conditionally committed to signing the Ottawa treaty by the year 2006. Anti-landmine campaigners welcome the commitment in principle, but will continue to press for more rapid action and against U.S. delaying tactics.

126 countries, including 39 African countries, have already signed the treaty, according to the database kept by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (

In the next posting: African Campaigns to Ban Landmines call for all African countries to sign by the first anniversary of the treaty signing on December 3.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

[Office of Sen. Patrick Leahy; Contact: David Carle, 202-224-3693]

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy on U.s. Policy on the International Landmine Treaty

May 22, 1998

[Following is the statement Friday of Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, on the White House's decision to sign the Ottawa anti-personnel landmines treaty as soon as landmine alternatives are available. Leahy issued the statement today (May 22) and released a letter to Leahy from National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, outlining the Administration's commitment. The letter is available on request. The Administration has set the year 2006 as a target date for signing. Leahy pushed for the commitment to sign the treaty and for an aggressive search for alternatives to landmines in discussions with White House and Pentagon officials. Leahy for a decade has been the leader of official U.S. policy initiatives on landmine issues.]


The Administration's announcement that the United States will sign the Ottawa landmine treaty when the Pentagon has alternatives to anti-personnel landmines, and that they will aggressively search for alternatives, is a major step toward the international ban we all seek. While I have long felt that we could and should sign the treaty without further delay, I am greatly encouraged by this decision because I believe there is no longer any doubt that we will sign. As far as I am concerned, the only question is whether we get there before 2006.

For two years, I have wanted the United States to join the Ottawa process not just with verbal expressions of support, but with actions that set us on a clear path to signing the treaty. That is what the Administration has now done, and I applaud them for it.

Let us remember where we were last September in Oslo during the negotiations on the Ottawa treaty.

In Oslo, the Pentagon insisted on a permanent exception in the treaty for our mixed mine systems -- which combine both anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. I opposed that exception -- not because I felt the United States was causing the humanitarian problem, but because it would have seriously weakened the treaty. When the other nations rejected that exception, the President refused to sign.

At that time, the President said the Pentagon would search for alternatives to anti-personnel mines, but not the anti-personnel mines that are used in the mixed mine systems -- which the Pentagon had conveniently renamed "submunitions."

The problem with that was that by exempting those anti-personnel mines we were saying we would never sign the treaty.

Ever since then I have been discussing with Sandy Berger, General Ralston, President Clinton and others how to bridge this gap. I felt it was critical that the United States commit to signing the treaty, if not immediately then as soon as possible, to assure other nations that we take our leadership role seriously and to encourage others to sign. I also recognized that we needed to address the Pentagon's concerns.

The Pentagon has pledged to search aggressively for alternatives to anti-personnel mines including those used in the mixed mine systems.

As soon as they have them the United States will sign the treaty. Although I have never accepted that linkage, I recognize that it is as far as the Pentagon is willing to go.

They have set a date of 2006. I think we can get there sooner and I and others will be pushing them to do so.

This should reassure the other 125 nations who have signed the treaty that we are no longer arguing about how the treaty was negotiated or what it says. We want to be part of it.

Some who have followed these discussions have called this decision a "de facto ratification of Ottawa." That is ridiculous. This assures the Pentagon that they can have alternatives to landmines, and the Senate still has to give its advice and consent to the treaty.

The sticking point that we have finally overcome is the anti-personnel mines in the mixed mine systems. Let's be clear. About eight months ago the Pentagon began calling those anti-personnel mines "submunitions." Call them what they want, they are anti-personnel mines. If they were not, they would not be banned by the treaty and the Pentagon would not have any reason to say they need alternatives for them. Frankly, I think it is beneath them and disingenuous to say they are something else.

If the Pentagon wants to avoid finding alternatives to landmines, they know how to do that. They can try to hold back the money for research, they can say they cannot find alternatives that do absolutely everything landmines do, and they can continue to overstate their need for landmines. This will be a test of their good faith. If we can drive a rover on Mars from a laptop here on Earth, we can solve this problem. It is a matter of will and resources.

General Ralston and Sandy Berger have pledged to me personally that they will do whatever is necessary, including obtaining the necessary funding, to get the job done. They are men of their word and I will do everything I can to support them. I want to thank them both for the time and effort they have given over the past few months to find a common approach to this, and I want to thank President Clinton, who I am convinced wants to sign the treaty. I also am grateful to Bobby Muller, whose vision made it possible for us to get this far and whose tireless energy will continue to drive this effort.

In the meantime, there are a number of things we can do that would help promote and strengthen the treaty:

  • We should urge other governments that have not yet signed to declare their intention to sign as soon as possible, as we have. They too should undertake to remove whatever obstacles are in the way.
  • We can use the treaty framework to share technology, disclose mine stockpiles, identify mined areas, support demining and assist mine victims.

In return for the Administration's commitment to sign the treaty when they have alternatives, I have agreed to not oppose a waiver of the one-year moratorium legislation. I agreed to this because the real issue is not whether we stop using landmines for a year, but whether we are committed to signing the treaty. The treaty is what matters.

Finally, I want to say a word to those in the Administration -- and they are not only in the Pentagon -- who do not want to give up landmines because our mines are made to self-deactivate.

It is like saying that because we are the United States, and our soldiers act responsibly and do not target civilians, we should be able to use poison gas. Only against military targets, of course.

In fact, years ago the Pentagon did say that.

I have lost count of the number of administration officials, past and present, who have stressed the importance of U.S. leadership to isolate nations that violate international norms. Leadership is not about rhetoric, or arrogance, or saying one thing and doing another.

It is about setting the example. We are not the problem, but there is no solution without us.

From: Holly Burkhalter, co-chair, USCBL
Re: US Policy on Landmines
Date: 5/27/98

As many of you know, Secretary Albright announced the outcome of a months-long process of formalizing current US policy on antipersonnel landmines. The policy includes the following features, as articulated in a letter from the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, to Senator Leahy:

  • The United States will destroy by 1999 all of its non-self-destructing APL's, except those needed for Korea.
  • The United States will end the use of all APL's outside Korea by 2003, including those that self-destruct.
  • The United States will aggressively pursue the objective of having APL alternatives ready for Korea by 2006, including those that self-destruct.
  • The United States will search aggressively for alternatives to our mixed anti-tank systems by (a) actively exploring the use of APL alternatives in place of the self-destructing anti-personnel submunitions currently used in our mixed systems and (b) exploring the development of other technologies and/or operational concepts that result in alternatives that would enable us to eliminate our mixed systems entirely.
  • Finally, the United States will sign the Ottawa Convention by 2006 if efforts succeed to identify and field suitable alternatives to US anti-personnel landmines and mixed anti-tank systems by then.

While we in the landmines campaign are very disappointed in the late date for U.S. signature on the Ottawa Treaty, it is important to note that the announced policy does, for the first time, commit the U.S. in principle to signing the treaty. This is extremely important, given the Pentagon's past hostility to the treaty, its willingness to boycott it forever, and its extreme reluctance to ever give up its antipersonnel landmines. The newly announced policy will make it much more difficult for the U.S. to publicly criticize the treaty and its terms, as Administration officials have been doing both at home and abroad since the Oslo negotiations. And it enables ban campaigners to push the White House on the "when" question, now that the President has agreed in principle to sign. The costs of the announced policy are very high, though. Insisting on finding and fielding alternatives to antipersonnel landmines before signing gives other hold-out states effective political cover for doing the same. And the eight year window before signing keeps the U.S. largely out of the important work during the treaty's early years of bringing on stragglers, monitoring compliance, and isolating and stigmatizing treaty violators.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the leading mine ban champion in the United States Congress, worked behind the scenes with the Administration to reach this decision. In his press release announcing it, Senator Leahy praised the decision but at the same time made it clear that he intended to push hard for signature before 2006, and that he rejects the explicit linkage between signing and alternatives. "...Although I have never accepted that linkage, I recognize that it is as far as the Pentagon is willing to go...They have set a date of 2006. I think we can get there sooner and I and others will be pushing them to do so."

At this time, Senator Leahy is working to codify the policy announcement in U.S. law, and to press the Pentagon to make good on the promise to search for alternatives. He will be offering an amendment on the Defense Authorization bill, which may be taken up on the Senate floor as early as mid-June, which would do the following: State that it is the policy of the United States Government to sign the Ottawa Landmine Convention as soon as practicable, authorize $25 million for adapting or developing alternatives that would produce comparable combat capability to antipersonnel landmines, but which are also compliant with the Ottawa Landmine Convention. The Leahy amendment will also require the Defense Department to report on its progress in the development of alternatives. Similar provisions were included in the Landmine Survivors Assistance Act bill, other parts of this bill (victim assistance, demining) will also be attached to relevant authorization or appropriations bills as they come up.

The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines supports the Leahy amendment and urges our member organizations and their constituents to contact the members of Senate Armed Services Committee (names listed below) and urge them to support Senator Leahy when he offers it on the Defense Authorization bill. Please see talking points below:

The Leahy Landmines Amendment: USCBL Talking Points

  • This amendment codifies in law the President's recently announced policy.
  • It helps promote a solution to the remaining impediment to the United States' signing of the Ottawa Treaty by authorizing $25 million for development of alternatives to landmines.
  • We strongly support the Leahy amendment because if enacted, we believe it would help make it possible for the U.S. to sign the Ottawa Landmine Treaty as soon as possible. A recently uncovered report commissioned by the Pentagon from the DuPuy Institute states that a landmine ban treaty observed by the US and most nations would enhance the safety of US soldiers.
  • The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines urges American support for the Ottawa Treaty now. We call upon Members and Senators to contact the White House and urge that the President sign the treaty without delay. We call upon the Senate to pass the Leahy amendment to the Defense Authorization act, which will move us towards compliance with the Ottawa Treaty.
  • The following Senators are Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and should be contacted about the Leahy amendment: Carl Levin (MI), Chuck Robb (VA), Max Cleland (GA), Joseph Lieberman (CT), Edward Kennedy (MA), John McCain (AZ), John Warner (VA), Dirk Kempthorne (ID), Olympia Snowe (ME). Please note: of these Senators, all but Senator Warner co-sponsored the Leahy Landmine Elimination Act last year. The text of the Leahy amendment is not the same as the Landmine Elimination Act, but it is certainly offered in the same spirit. Please politely urge these Senators to continue to support Senator Leahy in his effort to bring U.S. policy into compliance with the Ottawa Treaty.

US Campaign to Ban Landmines
Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation
2001 S St., NW Suite 740
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-483-9222 Fax: 202-483-9312 or 202-483-9314 Email:

Statement by International Campaign to Ban Landmines


(Oslo, Norway: 2 June 1998) The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) calls on pro-landmine ban nations, specifically Norway and Germany, to stand strong in the face of United States attempts to weaken the Mine Ban Treaty. "Don't yield to U.S. attempts to maim this treaty", the ICBL urged treaty signatory nations during the conclusion of its coordination committee meeting in Oslo, Norway today.

The ICBL is alarmed that following the signing of the treaty in Ottawa, Canada by over 120 nations, the U.S., a non-signatory, has pressured NATO member nations and others to allow continued U.S. stockpiling of antipersonnel mines on their territories, in violation of the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of the treaty. U.S. antipersonnel mines are stockpiled in nations including Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Britain, Greece, and Japan, all of which have signed the treaty, as well as South Korea, which has not. All NATO member states have signed the treaty with the exception of Turkey and the U.S. Under the terms of the Mine Ban Treaty, stockpiles must be destroyed within four years of the treaty's entry into force, which occurs six months after the 40th ratification. Currently thirteen nations have ratified the treaty and another dozen are expected to do so in the next month.

Equally disturbing for the ICBL is the fact that the U.S. has pressured NATO member nations and its allies to narrowly define the meaning of the word "transfer" in the treaty to not include "transit" of antipersonnel mines.

An understanding between Norway's Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last month indicates that Norway will allow the U.S. to continue to stockpile its antipersonnel mines in Norway for the next four years. Worse still, Norway has agreed that the U.S. can "transit" mines through Norway for warfighting in NATO and other operations, as well as for training exercises, in direct contravention of the treaty.

The ICBL believes that it is a violation of the treaty for a signatory to knowingly permit another nation to transit mines through its territory. The treaty prohibits signatories from assisting anyone with an action prohibited by the treaty. In addition, it is against the spirit of the treaty for signatories that have declared the weapon illegal to allow other nations to continue to stockpile them.

The ICBL views the recent understanding reached between the U.S. and Norway as contrary to the letter and spirit of the treaty. This leaves the impression of a weakened leadership by Norway in a situation when the ICBL looks forward to Norway is expected ratification of the treaty by the end of this month.

The ICBL condemns the recent strong-arming by United States as contrary to its new policy, announced by Secretary Albright last week, that the U.S. will sign the Mine Ban Treaty by 2006.

For more information please contact:

  • Halle Jorn Hanssen, Norwegian People's Aid. Tel. +47-90-55-96-64
  • Mark Perry, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Tel. +1-202-483-9222
  • Thomas Gebauer, medico international, Tel. +49-172-690-6219

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups individuals.

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