After weeks of internal debate and public speculation, on July 7th, the U.S. reach a consensus about providing Ukraine with thousands of highly controversial cluster bombs. The cluster munitions are included in a new $800 million package of military aid the U.S. will send to Ukraine.
Decision met with mixed reaction, on one hand being supported by Republicans, on another – criticized by some Democrats. President Joe Biden defined the step as a “difficult decision” and admitted that he obtained Ukrainian guarantees to use the bombs carefully. As Biden emphasised, “the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition, ” hence the cluster bombs might provide a temporary fix to help stop Russian tanks.
A cluster munition, or cluster bomb, is a weapon containing multiple explosive components. As some experts describe, “[c]luster munitions are dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground or sea, opening up in mid-air to release tens or hundreds of submunitions, which can saturate an area up to the size of several football fields.” Consequently, anybody within the strike area may be seriously threatened with being killed or getting a severe injury.
This weapon seems to be perilous for civilians who accidentally find themselves in the munition striking zone. It is estimated that since World War II, cluster munitions have killed 56,500 to 86,500 individuals. Therefore, over 100 countries, including the UK, France, and Germany, have prohibited the munitions under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, however, some key actors, such as the U.S., Russia, China, or Ukraine, are not signatories to the ban.
- Read more: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Visited China in a High-stakes Trip Aiming to Dial a Tensions
On Twitter, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy highlighted that a munition transfer is a “broad and much-needed defence aid package” that will “bring Ukraine closer to victory over the enemy, and democracy to victory over dictatorship”. From Ukraine’s perspective, the munition bombs would bolster the Ukrainian offensive pushing Russian through the front lines. In addition, the weapon could occur highly effective in plaguing Russian supply lines, as part of the outgoing attrition war.
According to the Pentagon, the last large-scale American use of cluster bombs dates back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Moreover, this weapon played the most significant role during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, as reported by Human Rights Watch. In the first three years of that conflict the U.S.-led coalition dropped more than 1,500 cluster bombs in Afghanistan.
Szymon Polewka is a student of international relations at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, specializing in the history of international relations, the Eurasian region, DACHL countries, intercultural relations, and the energy sector. He is currently on a scholarship at the University of Bremen. He has gained experience organizing the 2020 Economic Forum in Karpacz and numerous youth and student associations, such as AIESEC or Koło Naukowe Wyzwań Zielonego Ładu.
This article was written as part of the statutory activities of the Polish think tank Warsaw Institute. If you appreciate the content prepared by our partner, we appeal to you for financial support for this non-profit organisation.