Peacekeeping: A Disarming Process

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May 3,2008: A growing aspect of peacekeeping is the destruction of weapons that could find their way to troubled areas, and fuel the violence. Of particular interest to the United States are weapons favored by terrorists. Thus the U.S. is encouraging (with cash, new gear and other favors) nations to destroy old surface-to-air missiles. For example, tiny Montenegro is destroying 1,500 Strela 2M (SAM 7) surface-to-air missiles. These systems were introduced in the early 1970s. The missile weighed 20 pounds (including a 2.5 pound warhead, containing 13 ounces of explosives). The launcher weighed 9 pounds. The missile had a range of 4,200 meters, and could hit aircraft as high as about 7,000 feet.

While primitive by today's standards, the Strela 2M is still effective against helicopters and aircraft that do not have defensive systems. Over the last four decades, the Strela 2M has shot down over a hundred helicopters and aircraft, mostly in Vietnam. But Strela 2M's still show up, and are used. Montenegro had so many of these missiles because it was once part of Yugoslavia. That country always expected to be at war with either NATO or the communist Warsaw Pact, and facing lots of hostile aircraft. So Yugoslavia obtained lots of these Strela missiles. Few were used, even during the civil war that tore Yugoslavia apart during the 1990s. But as time went on, so did the possibility of corrupt officials selling off the missiles to gunrunners.

 


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