Likely landmine manufacturers Textron and General Dynamics have deep ties with the Trump administration.
The United States government is set to rescind restrictions on the U.S. military’s use or acquisition of landmines, an internal State Department cable obtained by Vox revealed Thursday and later confirmed to Reuters by two U.S. officials.
“It is a complete flouting of established international norms, a smack in the face to civilians at risk from long-existing stockpiles, and breaks with decades of precedent,” Arms control expert at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington Rachel Stohl told Vox.
The decision, which officials said could be announced as early as Friday, overturns President Barack Obama’s administration 2014 restriction to produce or acquire anti-personnel landmines, including to replace existing U.S. stockpiles, except in the Korean Peninsula.
The weapon is designed to injure, not kill, their victims in order to increase the logistical - mostly medical- support required by enemy forces. If a person triggers a landmine by stepping on it and survives, the severe injuries typically require the amputation of limbs or multiple operations.
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that “war surgeons consider them among the worst injuries they have to treat.”
According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, there have been roughly 130,000 casualties due to landmines between 1999 and 2018, the majority of which have been civilians. Since 1999, 48 percent of the victims of mines and explosive remnants of war have been children.
In order to ban the use of this weapon the International Campaign to Ban Landmines achieved the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, in which more than 160 countries signed to ban landmines, although this treaty has not yet been accepted by countries such as the U.S., Israel, Russia, China, Pakistan, or India.
The U.S. officially last produced antipersonnel landmines in 1997. However, in 2013 the Department of Defense awarded Alliant Techsystems, Textron and General Dynamics - serving as a prime subcontractor - a US$20 million contract to produce the XM-7 Spider a networked anti-personnel "munitions system" (landmine).
Although Alliant Techsystems is now extinct, Textron and General Dynamics have deep ties with the Trump administration. The Republican president placed former Textron Systems Chief Executive Ellen Lord in the position of undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics of the State Department.
Meanwhile, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis rejoined the General Dynamics board of directors in December. The company itself is one of the largest defense contractors in the country.