US Approves Shipment of Cluster Bombs to Ukraine Despite Concerns, Biden Calls It a “Difficult Decision”

The United States has announced its decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of an effort to support the country’s counteroffensive and replenish its diminishing ammunition stocks, despite concerns over the weapons’ failure rate and potential risk to civilians. President Joe Biden acknowledged that the move was a “difficult decision” due to the dangers associated with cluster bombs but cited Russia’s relentless use of such munitions in Ukraine as a key factor. The US aims to ensure that Ukraine’s supplies do not run out before domestic production ramps up later this year.

Biden explained during a CNN interview that Ukraine, which has been subjected to continuous attacks by Russian forces, was running low on ammunition. He emphasized the urgent need to address the situation and added, “It took me a while to be convinced to do it.” Ukraine contends that the cluster munitions will aid in targeting entrenched Russian positions and has committed to demining efforts and refraining from using the bombs in civilian areas.

The decision to provide cluster bombs marks a departure from previous US policies regarding the supply of certain weapons to Ukraine. The Biden administration has shifted its stance, previously concerned about escalating the conflict or provoking a response from Russian President Vladimir Putin beyond Ukraine’s borders. The Pentagon later announced the specifics of the delivery, stating that the munitions were part of an $800 million package sourced from existing US stocks.

The move, however, may strain relationships with NATO allies who are signatories to the 2010 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use and transfer of such weapons. The issue is expected to be discussed at an upcoming NATO leaders’ meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania.

France and Germany, also NATO members, have already declared that they will not supply cluster bombs. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg clarified that the decision lies with individual countries and not the alliance as a whole.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed concerns of divisions within the alliance, highlighting that Russian cluster munitions have a significantly higher failure rate compared to the 2.5% failure rate of US-supplied stocks. Sullivan emphasized that a large number of Russian munitions are already scattered across Ukraine, making the US decision more justifiable.

Notably, the decision to send cluster bombs may not fully align with congressional mandates, as they typically require a failure rate of less than 1% for the export of such weapons. However, US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl noted that President Biden has the authority to issue a waiver in this case. Kahl revealed that the US possesses hundreds of thousands of the munitions that could be sent to Ukraine.

Several prominent Republican lawmakers, including House Foreign Affairs Chairman Mike McCaul, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch, and Senate Armed Services Committee Republican Roger Wicker, have expressed support for the White House decision.

Critics from arms-control groups have raised concerns over the shipment of cluster bombs, highlighting the weapons’ high dud rates, particularly for the type known as Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions.

Amnesty International’s military researcher, Patrick Wilcken, criticized the decision, stating that the US plan undermines the progress made by the international community to protect civilians from such dangers during and after armed conflicts.

Cluster munitions, whether fired from aircraft or ground-based artillery, missile, or rocket launchers, disperse bomblets during flight, making them effective against armored vehicles and personnel, particularly against entrenched forces.

The US decision to supply cluster bombs to Ukraine reflects the ongoing complexities and considerations surrounding the conflict in the region, aiming to address urgent operational needs while navigating concerns regarding humanitarian impact and international norms.

Sources By Agencies

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