The United States has confirmed the delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of its military assistance to bolster the country’s offensive against Russian forces. This decision comes after months of deliberation, with President Joe Biden making the final call just last week.
Cluster munitions are bombs designed to disperse numerous smaller bomblets into the air, targeting a wider area. While they can be effective in targeting enemy concentrations, these munitions have faced criticism due to the risks they pose to civilians. The US, however, claims that the version of cluster munitions sent to Ukraine has a reduced “dud rate,” aiming to minimize the threat of unexploded bomblets harming civilians.
Despite the delivery of these weapons, US officials have not disclosed the specific quantity of cluster munitions sent to Ukraine, keeping such details classified for strategic reasons.
However, President Biden’s decision has drawn criticism from human rights organizations, who point to at least 149 civilian fatalities or injuries caused by cluster munitions worldwide in 2021. These organizations argue that the use of such weapons increases the likelihood of civilian casualties and underscores the urgent need for a stronger commitment to protecting innocent lives during armed conflicts.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that neither the United States, Russia, nor Ukraine have signed the international convention prohibiting the production and use of cluster munitions. This has fueled debates on the morality and ethics of deploying these weapons, especially in areas with civilian populations at risk.
Both Russia and Ukraine have been accused of using cluster munitions during the ongoing conflict, with Ukrainian officials alleging that Russian forces have employed them against civilians, exacerbating the humanitarian impact of the war.
In light of the escalating crisis, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed gratitude during the NATO summit in Lithuania for the controversial US military aid, which included the delivery of cluster munitions. The summit saw Western nations pledging additional arms and ammunition to support Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian invasion.