Taking a historic step, America provided cluster weapons to Ukraine

Biden agreed to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, citing a shortage of ammunition.  AFP/File
Biden agreed to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, citing a shortage of ammunition. AFP/File

In a move that has been both praised and criticized, the United States has agreed to provide cluster weapons to Ukraine as part of an $800 million security package.

These munitions, banned by more than 100 countries, will play a key role in Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive against Russian forces. The decision has sparked intense debate about the use of these weapons because of the potential risks and long-term consequences for civilians.

Defending the move, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan highlighted the importance of Ukraine’s need for additional artillery ammunition to counter the advancing Russian troops. “There is also a high risk of civilian casualties if Russian troops and tanks occupy Ukrainian positions,” Sullivan said.

The US government has obtained written assurances from Ukraine that cluster munitions will be used responsibly, and not in urban areas with civilian populations.

Cluster munitions are known for their ability to scatter bombs over a large area, posing a threat to both military targets and civilians. While many countries, including major US allies, have outlawed the use of these weapons, the US and Ukraine have not signed the ban. Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have strongly criticized the decision, arguing that it will cause long-term suffering and undermine international efforts to condemn the use of such weapons.

Germany, a key US ally and signatory to the embargo on cluster munitions, expressed opposition to providing these weapons to Ukraine. Germany, however, refrained from commenting directly on the US decision, saying it was not up to them to criticize the actions of non-signatory countries. Other US lawmakers have supported the move, urging the government to consider providing additional advanced weapons to Ukraine.

President Joe Biden initially hesitated to approve the transfer of cluster weapons, because of the global consensus against their use. However, the changing conditions of the battlefield and Ukraine’s urgent need for ammunition influenced his decision. The munitions would provide a temporary solution until non-cluster ammunition could be re-supplied to Ukraine.

Russia’s ambassador to Belarus, Boris Gryzlov, described the US decision as a “step of desperation”. Gryzlov suggested that the West’s support for Ukraine’s retaliatory strike signals a realization that it is not progressing as planned.

As the conflict between Ukraine and Russia continues, the delivery of the cluster weapons represents a significant development that will have far-reaching implications. This decision will undoubtedly shape the course of the war and its impact on civilians caught in the crossfire.

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