The scandal surrounding the use of uranium-tipped ammunition in the NATO war against Yugoslavia continues in Europe. According to various estimates, ten to twelve tons of the radioactive material were used by the US Air Force alone. US forces currently deployed in Kosovo within KFOR are also armed with such projectiles. Scientists do not know yet how depleted uranium affects the human organism and how dangerous it is. Americans keep insisting that depleted uranium projectiles, which are used as the most effective weapon against armored vehicles, do not pose a threat to human health. In addition, Americans emphasize that depleted uranium munitions “have been used for years, and this is not a secret.”
Lieutenant General Boris Alekseev, environmental safety commander of the Russian Armed Forces, says that there may be a connection between the use of depleted uranium-238 ammunition by NATO forces in Yugoslavia and leukemia among NATO servicemen. Alekseev says that uranium projectiles were used most densely along the Kosovo-Albanian border, where a Yugoslav mechanized infantry division had been deployed. At present Italian troops are stationed in the area; these troops have also recorded the highest leukemia rates, including several deaths.
German experts agree with these conclusions. Recently Russian military ecologists visited a German military research center that conducted experiments to study the influence of uranium-238 and its decomposition products on humans. Russian and German experts began studying the problem way before the European media and public starting talking about the so-called “Balkan syndrome.”
Over ten leukemia cases and lethal blood cancer cases have been registered in Western Europe among servicemen from Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark and some other countries that took part in operations in the Balkans. A number of European countries, led by Italy, have since demanded that the US ban the use of depleted uranium ordnance until tests of the affect of depleted uranium and its decomposition products on humans have been completed.
Meanwhile, during the January 9 discussion of the uranium problems at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, the US and UK vetoed a proposed moratorium on the use of depleted uranium ammunition.
Research, including studies by Russian experts, dedicated to influence of depleted uranium on human organism will be continued. The Main Military Medical Department of the Russian Defense Ministry reports that the Military Medical Academy is currently studying the influence of depleted uranium-238 on the human organism. When the test are finished, the results of the study will be published.
However, it is already clear that America’s reputation in Europe has been seriously damaged. The uranium scandal occurred at a moment when decisions regarding the formation of a European corps are being made, and European countries want to have a body of command over their forces independent from NATO. The scandal contributed to the aggravation of the tension between the US and European countries.
Under these circumstances Russia has turned out to be in a beneficial position. Moscow is not opposed to the organization of European peacekeeping forces, and will probably even participate. Of course, Washington does not like this idea and has launched a campaign to discredit Russia. January 3 The New York Times published an article stating that Russia was re-deploying its nuclear missiles to the Baltic Sea. Later President Vladimir Putin called this allegation “complete nonsense.”
Russia warned about the possibility of a large-scale tragedy on the Balkans back in 1999. In summer 1999 the Russian Defense Ministry announced that as a result of the use of 31,000 cruise missiles and airdropped bombs with a uranium-238 core, terrain and installations were contaminated with uranium oxide particles.
Problems caused by depleted uranium and other substances influence European public opinion, awakening anti-American sentiments in many people. Information that the new US Administration is resolved to withdraw from the ABM Treaty only strengthens this attitude.