Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 215

Russian defense minister Igor Sergeev on November 14 discounted any possibility that Russia would move rapidly to sign a convention banning anti-personnel land mines when it is opened for signature next month. President Boris Yeltsin in October had surprised many when he announced to the Council of Europe that Russia would sign the document. Yeltsin’s announcement had come despite the fact that the Russians had not even attended the conference in Oslo earlier this year where the convention was drafted, and that Russian military officials had often touted the military utility of these weapons.

Sergeev admitted that whether or not Russia would sign the convention was "more of a political matter," but said it was his view as a military man that Russian participation in the convention "may be possible, but not now." He said that, instead, Russia would extend for another five years its present moratorium on the production and export of the mines. He also repeated one of the arguments in favor of anti-personnel mines: to protect Russian nuclear weapons and nuclear installations. In banning the mines, he said that "we might inflict even greater damage." (Reuter, November 14)

In the U.S., President Bill Clinton has acceded to his military chiefs in adopting a cautious approach to the land mine issue, and has said that the U.S. would not sign the convention in Ottawa next month. Yeltsin would certainly score a public relations coup were he to be among the first signers. Sergeev’s remarks may signal concern that political considerations will supersede his military advice.

Russian Official Bemoans Lack of WTO Solidarity.