US President Biden Decides To Send Banned Bombs To Ukraine
The United States has decided to send Ukraine a package of cluster munitions to aid in its counteroffensive against Russia, despite the risks of civilian harm from the unexploded ordnance.
Ukraine has been asking for cluster munitions to address its ammunition shortage for months. These weapons are banned by more than 100 countries because they have a high risk of failure, which means that unexploded bomblets can remain on the ground for years and explode later on. Due to this, cluster munitions are controversial.
US President Joe Biden said the decision to send the munitions to Ukraine was hard on his part – on one hand, Ukraine was running out of ammunition and on the other hand, the weapons are dangerous. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Friday’s daily White House briefing:
We recognise the cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordnance. This is why we’ve deferred the decision for as long as we could. Ukraine would not be using these munitions in some foreign land. This is their country they’re defending. We will not leave Ukraine defenceless at any point in this conflict period.
Sullivan claimed that the cluster munitions the US plans to send to Ukraine have a dud rate of less than 2.5%, significantly lower than Russia’s rate of 30-40%. The Pentagon did not disclose the exact amount of cluster munitions that would be sent but stated that they have “hundreds of thousands” available.
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A United Nations investigation found Ukraine has probably already used cluster bombs, though the country has denied doing so. In a statement on Friday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights once again called on the countries not to use cluster bombs, arguing they were dangerous. Said office spokesperson Marta Hurtado:
Cluster munitions scatter small bomblets over a wide area, many of which fail to explode immediately. They can kill and maim years later. That’s why use should stop immediately.
The decision to send the munitions has faced criticism from human rights groups and some US lawmakers. Some US lawmakers have also asked the Biden administration not to send the weapons, arguing their humanitarian costs outweigh their benefits on the battlefield.