• Home
  • Blog
  • News

Controversial Decision: United States to Send Cluster Munitions to Ukraine in $800 Million Military Aid Package

The United States will be sending cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of a new $800 million military aid package, confirmed by the Pentagon. The package will also include armored vehicles and air defense missiles. Ukraine has been requesting cluster munitions for months, but the US officials have been hesitant due to concerns about the indiscriminate killing of civilians in a wide area.

The decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions has been a topic of debate within the Biden administration. Cluster munitions, also known as Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICMs), are banned by over 100 countries, including key US allies.[0] More than 120 countries, including most NATO members, have signed an international convention prohibiting the production, use, or transfer of cluster munitions due to their inhumane and indiscriminate nature.[1] However, the United States, Russia, and Ukraine are not among the signatories.[2]

Cluster munitions are weapons that break up in mid-air, scattering smaller explosives known as “bomblets” over a wide area.[3] They can be dropped from airplanes or fired from howitzers, artillery guns, and rocket launchers.[4] The use of cluster munitions has been widely criticized due to their potential to harm civilians, including children. The bomblets can remain unexploded for years, posing a long-term threat to unsuspecting individuals.

The decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions was described as a “difficult decision” by President Joe Biden. The Ukrainian government has provided written assurance that the munitions will not be used in civilian areas and that their use will be carefully mapped to locate and dispose of unexploded bomblets later.[5] The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has expressed gratitude for the defense package, stating that it brings Ukraine closer to victory over the enemy and democracy over dictatorship.[6]

The decision to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine bypasses US law that restricts the transfer of such munitions if the “dud rate” is over 1%.[0] The dud rate refers to the percentage of bomblets that fail to explode upon impact. President Biden will invoke section 614 of the Foreign Assistance Act to waive these restrictions, citing national security interests.[7]

The aid package also includes additional munitions for air defense systems and artillery rocket systems, as well as armored personnel carriers and various spare parts. The cluster munitions provided by the US will be drawn from Defense Department stocks and are designed to disperse submunitions from the air, targeting entrenched Russian troops and equipment.[8]

The use of cluster munitions by Russia in Ukraine has been a cause for concern, as these munitions reportedly have a high dud rate, with a significant number of bomblets failing to explode. This poses a risk to civilians who may encounter these unexploded bomblets in the future. The US cluster munitions are stated to have a dud rate below 2.5%, significantly lower than that of Russia's.[9]

Cluster munitions have been widely criticized for their impact on civilians. They pose a risk to anyone in the vicinity of their targets and can remain lethal for years. The unexploded bomblets can be mistaken for toys by children, leading to tragic accidents.[1] According to reports, the majority of casualties from cluster bombs are civilians, with children being particularly vulnerable.

While cluster munitions may have potential effectiveness on the battlefield, their use raises significant humanitarian concerns. The decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions has been met with mixed reactions, with some military experts believing that they could aid Ukraine in its fight against Russian forces, while others express concerns about the risk to civilians.

Overall, the decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of the military aid package highlights the complex nature of providing assistance in a conflict zone. The use of such weapons raises ethical and humanitarian concerns, and their impact on civilian populations cannot be overlooked. It remains to be seen how the deployment of cluster munitions will unfold and what its implications will be in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

0. “US to send cluster munitions to Ukraine following congressional pressure” Defense One, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2023/07/us-send-cluster-munitions-ukraine-following-congressional-pressure/388317/

1. “What are cluster bombs and why is US sending them to Ukraine?” BBC, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-66133527

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. “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/

4. “Ukraine: The deadly legacy of cluster bombs” DW (English), 8 Jul. 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/ukraine-the-deadly-legacy-of-cluster-bombs/a-62133429

5. “Biden OKs cluster bombs, decried by human rights groups, for Ukraine” USA TODAY, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2023/07/07/biden-oks-controversial-cluster-munitions-weapons-ukraine/70391231007/

6. “Cluster bombs: Unease grows over US sending cluster bombs to Ukraine” BBC, 9 Jul. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-66144153

7. “US to send cluster munitions banned by over 100 nations to Ukraine after months of debate” CNN, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/07/07/politics/cluster-munitions/index.html

8. “DOD Announces $800M Security Assistance Package for Ukraine” Department of Defense, 7 Jul. 2023, https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3451905/dod-announces-800m-security-assistance-package-for-ukraine/

9. “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