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Controversial Decision: United States Approves Transfer of Cluster Munitions to Ukraine Despite Global Ban

The United States has made the controversial decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, despite the fact that most NATO countries have banned their use due to the risk of civilian casualties. Cluster bombs, also known as dual-purpose improved conventional munitions, are designed to target multiple military objectives by dispersing numerous small “bomblets” over a wide area.[0] The problem with these weapons is that they often fail to explode upon impact, posing a significant threat to civilians long after the conflict has ended.

The decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine comes as the country is engaged in a counteroffensive against Russia. Both sides in the conflict are already using these weapons, with Ukrainian cluster munitions causing the deaths of at least eight civilians last year.[1] It is important to note that more than 120 countries have committed to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, production, transfer, and storage of these weapons.[0] However, the United States, Ukraine, and Russia are not party to this agreement.[2]

President Joe Biden has approved the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine, citing the country's need for ammunition in its fight against Russia.[3] Despite concerns from arms control groups and human rights activists about the potential harm to civilians, Biden has decided to bypass US law that restricts the transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1%.[4] The decision has drawn criticism from Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups who argue that it undermines the global consensus against the use of these weapons.

In defense of the decision, President Biden has stated that Ukraine has provided written assurances that the cluster munitions will not be used in civilian areas.[2] Ukraine has undertaken to engage in demining efforts after conflicts in order to minimize any possible harm to civilians.[5] However, critics argue that the risks of using these weapons outweigh the potential benefits. They argue that the use of cluster munitions not only puts civilians at risk but also undermines the moral authority of the United States and contradicts the stance of its NATO allies.

The Pentagon has argued that cluster munitions could be useful in breaking up Russian formations and countering their human wave attacks. They believe that these weapons will give Ukraine an advantage on the battlefield.[4] However, it is important to note that Russia has also been using cluster munitions in the conflict. Advocates for the transfer of cluster munitions argue that the munitions provided by the US will have a lower dud rate, meaning there will be fewer unexploded rounds that pose a risk to civilians.[6]

The decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine is a highly contentious one.[7] It raises questions about the ethical implications of using these weapons and the potential harm they can cause to civilians.[1] The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia is already devastating for the people in the region, and the addition of cluster munitions only exacerbates the risks faced by civilians.[7] It remains to be seen what the long-term consequences of this decision will be and whether it will lead to a change in the global consensus against the use of cluster munitions.

0. “U.S. to Arm Ukraine With Highly Controversial Cluster Bombs | Time” TIME, 6 Jul. 2023, https://time.com/6292308/ukraine-cluster-bomb-debate/

1. “U.S. approves cluster bombs despite humanitarian concerns” POLITICO, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/07/07/u-s-approves-cluster-bombs-in-latest-ukraine-weapons-transfer-00105234

2. “White House defends sending up to hundreds of thousands of cluster shells to Ukraine” The Washington Post, 8 Jul. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/07/07/biden-cluster-bomb-ukraine-dud

3. “Biden Set to Send Cluster Munitions to Ukraine Despite Concern” Bloomberg, 6 Jul. 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-07-06/biden-agrees-to-send-cluster-bombs-to-ukraine-despite-concerns

4. “What is a cluster bomb, the controversial weapon the U.S. is sending to Ukraine?” CBS News, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cluster-bombs-munitions-ukraine-united-states-russia

5. “Top Dems break with Biden over sending cluster bombs to Ukraine” POLITICO, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/07/07/top-dems-break-with-biden-over-sending-cluster-bombs-to-ukraine-00105246

6. “Ukraine updates: US to supply cluster bombs to Kyiv – DW – 07/07/2023” DW, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/russia-ukraine-updates-july-7/live-66146186

7. “Why the US has finally decided to send cluster weapons to Ukraine” The Telegraph, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/07/07/ukraine-invasion-us-sends-cluster-weapons-analysis/