By Tom Squitieri
Red Snow News
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has a new “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — with this time the policy is about weapon systems it is giving or considering giving to Ukraine and not sexual orientation of personnel.
At the forefront are two weapons systems: anti-personnel mines, known as Claymores, and longer-range missiles, known as Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMs).
The long rumor in Washington is that the Biden administration is wary of providing missiles with longer range strike capacity as a way to elude the possibility that Ukraine will hit targets inside of Russia.
But for other weapons that have been given — such as Claymore mines — U.S. officials say they come with no guidance or, at least publicly, with no strings attached.
“Can you give them a weapon and put restrictions on it? That is the crux,” Mark Canican, a senior adviser with the CSIS International Security Program, said in an interview.
That raises the question of if U.S. supplied weapons will be used outside the bounds of international treaties.
At the forefront of that is the Claymore anti-personnel mine that, under some circumstances and tactical use, is prohibited by the Ottawa land mines treaty.
Under the treaty, Claymores can be used if detonated only with a remote control device, meaning an individual has to do it with purpose and not by accident. If they are rigged to detonate with a tripwire or other trick method they are prohibited.
“We provide equipment to the Ukrainians, and they determine how they’re going to use it,” Brig Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon spokesperson, said at a Pentagon briefing when asked about concerns surrounding the Claymore mine.
He also said that “to clarify, too, I think sometimes the — the term, you know, as I looked into this, admittedly, as an Air Force guy. This is an antipersonnel device above ground, so mines in that sense is a little bit of a misnomer, but yeah.”
According to the Ottawa treaty, Claymores are mines covered by the treaty protocols, regardless if they are above or below the ground. Ryder then said, “The capabilities that we’re providing are in compliance with the Ottawa Treaty.”
As Cancian noted, “you can turn anything into a land mine” including basic artillery shells.
Requests to the Press and Information Department of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and the Department of Public Relations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for comments, clarifications and perspective did not generate responses.
Ukraine signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively prohibiting antipersonnel mines on February 24, 1999 and became a state party on June 1, 2006. Russia has not joined the Mine Ban Treaty (nor has the United States) — but alleges that Ukraine has violated the treaty.
In June, the Biden administration announced that it would restrict the use of anti-personnel land mines by the U.S. military, aligning the country’s policy more closely with the international treaty.
“The president believes strongly that we need to curtail their use worldwide,” John Kirby, a national security spokesman, said at a White House briefing then.
In the case of ATACMs and other weapons, the Biden administration has refrained from sending them in order to avoid being forced to either put conditions on their use or look the other way.
The Biden administration notably did this when it first sent Ukraine the HIMARS in June. At the time, the administration said it received assurances from Kyiv that the system wouldn’t be used to strike into Russian territory, but rather to hit Russian targets within Ukraine.
The HIMARS can carry six guided rockets at a time, each of which can strike targets near 50 miles away — a range that Pentagon officials say covers the vast majority of Ukraine’s intended targets. ATACMs are a surface-to-surface system that can hit targets up to 186 miles away.
Ukraine president Zelensky has said Ukraine would agree to bring the U.S into targeting decisions if Washington would provide ATACMs, something that would make the U.S. an even more active participant in the war.
Putting conditions on the use of weapons such as ATACMs would place both the U.S. and Ukraine in an awkward and perhaps counter-productive situation, Cancian said.
“That would be an open invitation for Russia” to strike Ukraine knowing that its use of retaliatory weapons is limited, he said.
“(The Ukrainians) would be under tremendous pressure,” Cancian said. He said the Ukrainian population would be demanding “retribution” after continued Russian attacks — charging that “Why can you say they can shoot at us but we can’t shoot at them?”