The US is Willing to Send Ukraine Cluster Munitions; Why Now?

The US is Willing to Send Ukraine Cluster Munitions; Why Now? The US is Willing to Send Ukraine Cluster Munitions; Why Now?

In a significant development, the United States has made the decision to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, aiming to support its military in countering the presence of Russian forces that have established strong positions along the front lines.

According to anonymous sources familiar with the matter, the Biden administration is anticipated to make an announcement on Friday regarding the dispatch of a substantial number of them. This move is said to be part of a newly proposed military aid package valued at $800 million. The sources, who are not authorized to disclose this information publicly prior to the official announcement, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The decision is expected to incite strong backlash from certain allies and humanitarian organizations who have consistently voiced their opposition to the utilization of cluster bombs.

According to proponents, it is claimed that Russia has already employed the contentious weapon in Ukraine. Additionally, they argue that the munitions to be supplied by the U.S. possess a lower dud rate, which would result in a significant decrease in unexploded rounds and subsequently reduce the risk of unintended civilian casualties.

In this report, we will delve into the nature of cluster munitions, their historical usage, and the rationale behind the United States’ decision to supply them to Ukraine at this time.

A cluster munition is a type of explosive weapon that is designed to disperse multiple smaller submunitions, or bomblets, over a wide area.

A cluster munition, also known as a bomb that disperses smaller explosive devices called “bomblets,” is designed to open in the air and distribute its payload over a large geographical area. According to reports, the bomblets have been specifically engineered to effectively neutralize tanks, equipment, and troops, all in a single strike, thereby targeting multiple objectives simultaneously.

The munitions being deployed are utilizing the existing artillery weapons, such as howitzers, that have been previously supplied by the U.S. and its allies to Ukraine for the ongoing conflict. The cluster munition that the U.S. intends to send is derived from a prevalent 155 mm shell that is already extensively employed throughout the battlefield.

In previous conflicts, it has been observed that cluster munitions have exhibited a significant dud rate. This has resulted in the persistence of numerous unexploded bomblets, posing a long-term threat to individuals as they continue to cause casualties and injuries even decades after the initial conflict. In 2003, the United States employed cluster munitions during its military operations in Iraq. However, as the conflict evolved and urban areas with higher concentrations of civilians became the focal point, the U.S. made the decision to cease the use of these munitions.

In a statement on Thursday, Brigadier General Pat Ryder revealed that the Defense Department possesses several different versions of munitions. He further clarified that the munitions being contemplated for provision do not include older variants, which have a higher rate of unexploding at more than 2.35%.

Why are they being provided now?

In a development spanning over a year, the United States has been utilizing its own reserves of conventional 155 howitzer munitions. These munitions, totaling more than 2 million rounds, have been dispatched to Ukraine. Allies from various countries worldwide have contributed an additional hundreds of thousands.

The 155 mm round, with its impressive range of 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 kilometers), has become a favored choice among Ukrainian ground troops. This munition allows them to effectively engage and strike enemy targets from a significant distance. In the ongoing conflict with Russia, Ukrainian forces are expending a significant number of rounds each day in their efforts to combat the opposing forces.

During a German Marshall Fund event in the United States this spring, Yehor Cherniev, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, informed reporters that Kyiv may have to increase its daily firing of rounds to 7,000 to 9,000 in order to escalate its counteroffensive fighting. The provision of a significant number of puts is placing considerable pressure on stocks in the United States and its allied countries.

According to Ryan Brobst, a research analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the cluster bomb is being considered as an appealing choice for Ukraine. This is due to its potential to effectively eliminate multiple targets using fewer rounds. Brobst further highlights that the United States, having refrained from employing cluster bombs in conflicts since Iraq, possesses substantial stockpiles of these weapons readily available for access.

In a letter dated March 2023, prominent House and Senate Republicans have reached out to the Biden administration, revealing that the United States potentially possesses a substantial arsenal of 3 million cluster munitions. The letter emphasizes the urgent need for the White House to consider deploying these munitions as a means to alleviate the strain on U.S. war supplies.

According to Brobst, cluster munitions are deemed more effective than unitary artillery shells due to their ability to cause damage across a broader expanse. In a crucial development for Ukraine, efforts are underway to clear heavily fortified Russian positions, a task of utmost significance.

According to Brobst, tapping into the cluster munitions stored in the United States could potentially solve Ukraine’s shell shortage and ease the strain on the 155 mm stockpiles both in the U.S. and other locations.

Is the use of them considered a war crime?

In the realm of international law, the use of cluster bombs, while not inherently violating any regulations, can potentially cross the line when employed against civilian populations. In the context of a strike, the assessment of a potential war crime hinges on two key factors: the legitimacy of the target and the extent to which precautions were taken to prevent harm to civilians.

According to Mark Hiznay, the associate arms director at Human Rights Watch, the aspect of international law that becomes relevant in this situation is the occurrence of indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Hiznay made this statement during an interview with The Associated Press. According to the user, it appears that there may be a distinction between the weapons themselves and the manner in which they are utilized.

Over 120 countries have joined a convention that prohibits the use of cluster bombs. These countries have agreed to refrain from using, producing, transferring, or stockpiling these weapons. Additionally, they have committed to clearing cluster bombs after they have been deployed. The United States, Russia, and Ukraine have yet to sign on.

Where have they been used, you may ask?

In numerous recent conflicts, including those involving U.S. forces, the deployment of bombs has been observed.

According to HRW, it has been reported that the United States initially regarded cluster bombs as a crucial component of its military arsenal during the commencement of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. According to the group’s estimation, the U.S.-led coalition has reportedly deployed over 1,500 cluster bombs in Afghanistan within the initial three years of the conflict.

In a significant development, the Defense Department was slated to discontinue the utilization of cluster munitions with an unexploded ordnance rate surpassing 1% by the year 2019. In a significant policy shift, the Trump administration has rolled back the aforementioned policy, granting commanders the authority to approve the utilization of these munitions.

During the civil war in Syria, it has been reported that Syrian government troops, allegedly supplied by Russia, frequently employed cluster munitions against opposition strongholds. These actions have resulted in numerous instances of civilian targets and infrastructure being hit. During the 1982 invasion, Israel reportedly utilized these weapons in civilian areas in south Lebanon.

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