The government of US President Joe Biden officially announced Friday that it would include controversial cluster munitions in a new military assistance package for Ukraine, a decision made in consultation with lawmakers and allies.
The shipment of military weapons to kyiv will be the 42nd made by the Biden Administration since August 2021, the Department of Defense specified in a release.
Official reports had already advanced the controversial decision to supply cluster bombs, the use of which is prohibited by more than 120 countries due to the high risk of civilian casualties. The aid would amount to about 800 million dollars, the State Department detailed in a statement.
“This package will provide Ukraine with additional munitions and artillery systems, including highly effective and reliable Dual-Purpose Enhanced Conventional Munitions (DPICMs), on which the Administration conducted extensive consultations with Congress and our Allies and partners”, clarified the Defense portfolio.
The powerful explosives, prohibited under the Cluster Munitions Convention, of which the US, Ukraine and Russia are not part; they would serve to assist kyiv in its counter-offensive against the Russian forces.
The published list includes 155mm artillery rounds, including DPICM and ammunition for the Patriot and Himars systems, “armored vehicles, anti-armor weapons and other equipment to help Ukraine protect its people and counter the war of ongoing Russian aggression”.
A “difficult decision”
Earlier this Friday, White House Security Adviser Jake Sullivan defended the decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine, which, he said, “needs artillery to maintain its offensive and defensive operations.”
“We recognize the risk (…) that is why we postponed the decision as long as we could. But there is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks go over Ukrainian positions and take over more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians,” Sullivan insisted to the press.
Cluster munitions are designed to break open before they hit the ground and disperse submunitions that widen the area of damage, causing death or serious injury to anyone within range.
In addition to their long range, another great danger of submunitions is that they may not detonate immediately and be buried only to explode months or years later, much like a land mine. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that 40% of mini-bombs do not explode immediately.
At least 15 countries have used cluster munitions, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Israel, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia (and Soviet Union), Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, UK, USA. . and Yugoslavia.
Furthermore, according to the Cluster Munitions Coalition some 76 countries stock billions of submunitions. A total of 34 states are known to have produced more than 210 different types of cluster munitions.