Home » Cluster bombs: Unease grows over US sending cluster bombs to Ukraine

Cluster bombs: Unease grows over US sending cluster bombs to Ukraine

by Mahmmod Shar

By Kathryn Armstrong & Antoinette Radford

Several allies of the US have expressed unease at Washington’s decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs.

On Friday, the US confirmed it was sending the controversial weapons to Ukraine, with President Joe Biden calling it a “very difficult decision”.

In response, the UK, Canada and Spain all pointed out that they were opposed to the use of the weapons.

Cluster bombs have been banned by more than 100 countries because of the danger they pose to civilians.

They typically release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area, while those that fail to explode pose a danger for decades after a conflict ends.

Mr Biden told CNN in an interview on Friday that he had spoken to allies about the decision, which was part of a military aid package worth $800m (£626m).

The president said it had taken him “a while to be convinced to do it”, but he had acted because “the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition”.

The decision was quickly criticised by human rights groups, with Amnesty International saying cluster munitions pose “a grave threat to civilian lives, even long after the conflict has ended”.

And on Saturday, some Western allies of the US refused to endorse its decision.

When asked about his position on the US decision, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted the UK was one of 123 countries that had signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use.

Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles went further, telling reporters her country had a “firm commitment” that certain weapons and bombs could not be sent to Ukraine.

“No to cluster bombs and yes to the legitimate defence of Ukraine, which we understand should not be carried out with cluster bombs,” she said.

The Canadian government said it was particularly concerned about the potential impact of the bombs – which sometimes lie undetonated for many years – on children.

It also said it was against the use of the cluster bombs and remained fully compliant with the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

“Canada is fully compliant with the Convention and we take seriously our obligation under the Convention to encourage its universal adoption,” it said in a statement.

The US, Ukraine and Russia have not signed up to the convention, while both Moscow and Kyiv have used cluster bombs during the war.

Meanwhile, Germany, which is a signatory of the treaty, said that while it would not provide such weapons to Ukraine, it understood the American position.

“We’re certain that our US friends didn’t take the decision about supplying such ammunition lightly,” German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters in Berlin.

Graphic of cluster munition

Ukraine’s defence minister has given assurances the cluster bombs would not be used in urban areas and only to break through enemy defence lines.

The munitions have caused controversy over their failure – or dud – rate, meaning unexploded small bombs can linger on the ground for years and indiscriminately detonate later on.

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