A Desperate Move, Biden Contemplates Cluster Bomb Aid for Ukraine’s Flagging  Counteroffensive

Given that the much-hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive is not producing significant results, the persistence with which Congress advocates for delivering cluster munitions (dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM)) to Ukraine is quite understandable.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

US President Joe Biden is considering the possibility of supplying Ukraine with cluster munitions; the White House will shortly make a final decision on this matter.

The move is in response to the Ukrainian government’s request for the supply of cluster aviation munitions, parts of which are intended to be dropped from unmanned aerial vehicles. At the February 17 Munich Security Conference, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov advocated using cluster and phosphorus munitions during hostilities with Russia.

According to US officials who spoke to Reuters, Kyiv requested MK-20 Rockeye II bombs and 155mm cluster rounds from the United States. It is noted that Ukrainian officials are confident that MK-20 components have “superior armour-piercing capabilities” than drone-dropped ammunition. Simultaneously, Kyiv officials demand American legislators influence the White House to authorise the necessary ammunition shipment.

These munitions are compatible with the artillery pieces that the US has already given Ukraine over the past year, and the Pentagon currently has 3 million units in store. Against armoured vehicles, the US usually employs cluster bombs of the Mk 20 Rockeye II, CBU-99 Rockeye II, and CBU-100 Rockeye II variety.

According to CNN sources, the munitions could be included in a new military aid package to Kyiv as early as next month if approved. As per Biden administration officials, the cluster munitions that the United States has accumulated in significant quantities since phasing them out gradually in 2016 could assist the Ukrainian military.

Due to their risk to civilian populations, the US has been reluctant to provide cluster munitions, according to the channel. The US Congress has also imposed legislative restrictions on transferring this weaponry due to its more than 1 per cent defect rate. According to channel sources, however, President Biden could overturn this restriction.

The United Kingdom, France, and Germany are among the Key US allies that have signed a ban on cluster munitions. However, White House officials believe they were able to ease the concerns of some allies regarding the transfer of these armaments to Kyiv.

In 2016, the United States began phasing out Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) cluster munitions because they contain hundreds of small “cluster explosives” that frequently remain unexploded on the battlefield, posing a threat to civilian populations.

This is not the first time Ukraine has requested such armaments from the West. Foreign Policy, citing sources, reported in October 2012 that Ukraine desired cluster cumulative fragmentation artillery projectiles or DPICM – ground-to-ground class. According to the publication, Turkey had supplied Ukraine with cluster munitions developed by the US and manufactured in Turkey during the Cold War as part of a collaborative production agreement. Ukraine refuted these claims. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that such deliveries would not be made. The German Bundestag also refused to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine.

Why Ukraine Requires Cluster Bombs

Given that the much-hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive is not producing significant results, the persistence with which Congress advocates for delivering cluster munitions (dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM)) to Ukraine is quite understandable. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have less time to overcome the Russian army’s multilayered defence: Western-supplied artillery is wearing out and progressively becoming inoperative, and conventional artillery shell stocks are dangerously low. In this context, the Ukrainian army has an imperative need for cluster munitions. 

In the conflict, the US military believes that cluster munitions would benefit Ukraine, especially against dug-in Russian positions on the battlefield. During a congressional hearing, Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Russia and Ukraine, said this would enhance battlefield efficacy. She explained that the lack of progress in granting this capability is due to extant congressional restrictions on granting DPICM and concerns regarding Allied unity.

Use of Cluster Munitions in Russia Ukraine war

According to the August 2022 annual report of the Cluster Munition Coalition’s initiative, the Russian military employed hundreds of cluster munitions in Ukraine in 2018. More than 200 civilians were killed, and nearly 500 were injured as a result of the strikes, according to the report’s authors. According to the report’s authors, the Ukrainian military deployed such weapons on at least three occasions in Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Kherson.

The Risk of Cluster Bombs

Cluster munitions are dangerous because they do not execute pinpoint strikes on military targets and cover large areas.

In essence, cluster munitions are weapons against civilians. The individual explosives that make up these cluster bombs have the potential to maim or kill anyone they come into contact with. They are called “clusters” because they are distributed throughout particular locations. These weapons have effects that persist for a long time, and it isn’t easy to find a place of safety away from them. Even if people, for example, hide in basements, they risk being injured whenever they return to the surface. Without a shadow of a doubt, the danger posed by these explosives cannot be overstated. 

The use of cluster munitions, as well as their transportation and storage, are all prohibited under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which is an international accord. Onn August 1, 2010, the convention entered into force, and 123 countries had signed it; however, only 110 countries had ratified it. The European states that have not signed the agreement are Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Greece, Georgia, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Estonia. The US has also chosen not to sign the convention.


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