President Biden is Sending Cluster Bombs to Ukraine 

President Biden had long resisted calls to provide cluster munitions—which are currently sitting in U.S. stockpiles and on the verge of expiring—because of how controversial the weapons are globally. The small bomblets are banned in more than 120 countries because they pollute the battlefield with unexploded munitions and therefore kill civilians years after a conflict subsides.

The use of cluster bombs itself does not violate international law, but using them against civilians can be a violation. As in any strike, determining a war crime requires looking at whether the target was legitimate and if precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties.

What are cluster munitions?

Cluster munitions scatter unguided submunitions, or bomblets, as small as 20 kilograms over a large area, maybe the size of several football fields. The U.S. last used them during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The weapons can be fired from aircraft or from the ground. Depending on the type used, anywhere from dozens to 600 bomblets may be released at a time, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Why are they controversial?

Cluster munitions scatter small bomblets over a wide area, many of which fail to explode immediately, (duds) they can kill and maim years later. 

Key Democratic lawmakers are breaking with President Joe Biden over the controversial decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine, arguing that providing the weapons, which are banned by more than 120 countries, cedes the moral high ground and will end up indiscriminately killing civilians.

“The decision by the Biden administration to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine is unnecessary and a terrible mistake,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Mo.), the ranking member of the House’s defense appropriations subcommittee. “The legacy of cluster bombs is misery, death and expensive cleanup generations after their use.”

Why now?

President Biden said “the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition”. National Security Adviser Jake  Sullivan said Ukraine was running out of artillery and needed “a bridge of supplies” while the US ramps up domestic production.

“We will not leave Ukraine defenceless at any point in this conflict period,” he said.

He added: “Ukraine would not be using these munitions in some foreign land. This is their country they’re defending.”

But there is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks roll over Ukrainian positions and take more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians because Ukraine does not have enough artillery. That is intolerable to us.”

Have Cluster bombs been used in Ukraine?

A variety of cluster bombs have been used by Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine, both against Ukrainian troops and in urban areas, Sidharth Kaushal, a research fellow at the defense and security think tank RUSI, told CBS News. He said Ukraine also has a limited number of cluster munitions from Turkey.

Why cluster bombs?

“Cluster munitions are especially useful for clearing out large numbers of infantry,” Sidharth Kaushal said. “Given Russia’s shift towards combining limited numbers of skilled assault troops with larger numbers of expendable ‘Storm Z’ units, the ability to engage and destroy large concentrations effectively is important to the Ukrainians. They can also be used against armor, and to attack fixed positions more effectively.”

Kaushal said cluster bombs would help Ukrainian troops in multiple ways as they fight against Russia’s invasion.

“They are a force multiplier for the Ukrainian artillery in both offensive roles and defenses against local Russian counterattacks,” Kaushal said.

The U.S. recognizes their potential as potent weapons that can break up enemy formations. In June, Pentagon official Laura Cooper told Congress that the department’s military analysts had concluded that clusterbombs “would be useful, especially against dug-in Russian positions.”

✱ Mr Sullivan told reporters that the cluster munitions America will send to Ukraine have a dud rate of less than 2.5%, describing that as far below Russia’s cluster munition dud rate, which US officials say is between 30-40%.

✱ Officials are planning to send artillery shells to Ukraine, with each containing 88 separate bomblets, according to US media reports. They would be fired from Howitzer artillery weapons already deployed by the Ukrainian army.







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