Several US partners are concerned about the plan of the US to equip Ukraine with cluster bombs. According to a BBC News report, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Spain have stated their objections to the employment of these weapons.
More than 100 nations have enacted bans on cluster bombs because of the serious danger they pose to civilian populations. In addition, these cluster bombs have been criticised for their high failure or dud rate, leaving unexploded bomblets that can remain dangerous for years and detonate unpredictable, according to the report. These munitions release numerous smaller bomblets that can cause widespread, indiscriminate casualties.
Cluster bombs will be sent to Ukraine as part of a $800 million military aid package, according to President Joe Biden. Although he agreed that it was a tough choice and emphasised the importance of ammunition for the Ukrainians, he said that he had addressed the issue with allies.
What are Cluster Bombs?
Cluster bombs are highly controversial due to the significant humanitarian impact they pose. Here are some reasons why they are controversial, as per a report by CBS News:
- Indiscriminate Effect: Cluster bombs scatter bomblets over a wide area, making them imprecise and indiscriminate in their targets. This can result in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
- Unexploded Ordnance: Many of the bomblets fail to detonate upon impact and become unexploded ordnance. These unexploded bomblets remain a long-term threat to civilians, as they can be triggered accidentally by unsuspecting individuals, including children. This poses a risk for years or even decades after the conflict has ended.
- Civilian Casualties: Civilians are the primary victims of cluster bombs. The bomblets can cause severe injuries or death to anyone in the vicinity at the time of detonation. According to reports, a high percentage of casualties caused by cluster munitions are civilians, including a significant number of children.
- Humanitarian Impact: The large-scale use of cluster bombs leaves affected areas contaminated with unexploded submunitions, creating long-term challenges for post-conflict recovery, reconstruction, and the safe return of displaced populations. Clearance of these contaminated areas is costly, time-consuming, and dangerous.
- International Consensus: The use of cluster bombs has been widely condemned internationally. Over 100 countries have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of these weapons, as per the report. The humanitarian consequences and indiscriminate nature of cluster bombs have contributed to the broad consensus against their use.
Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, swiftly criticized the move, emphasizing the grave threat cluster munitions pose to civilian lives, both during and after the conflict, as per BBC News.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan defended the decision, asserting that the American cluster bombs being supplied to Ukraine had a lower failure rate compared to those already used by Russia in the conflict.
“We’re in a situation where Ukraine continues to be brutally attacked across the board by munitions, by these cluster munitions,” Biden told CNN, and that Ukraine was running low. “It took me a while to be convinced to do it.”
Ukraine argues that the supply of cluster munitions will assist in targeting entrenched Russian positions in the ongoing conflict. They claim that the munitions will not be used in civilian areas, and Ukraine is committed to demining efforts once the conflict concludes, as per AFP.
This decision by the Biden administration to provide cluster bombs is the latest example of a shift in policy. The administration has been willing to supply weapons to Ukraine that were previously considered off-limits due to concerns about escalating the conflict or provoking a response from Russian President Vladimir Putin beyond Ukraine’s borders.
The Pentagon has announced that the delivery of cluster munitions is part of a $800 million military aid package, utilizing existing US stocks. The decision has raised concerns among US allies and human rights organizations, given the controversy and humanitarian risks associated with cluster bombs.