Home SECURITY & DEFENCE Joe Biden likely to face tough questions in Europe over supply of cluster munitions to Ukraine.

Joe Biden likely to face tough questions in Europe over supply of cluster munitions to Ukraine.

Joe Biden is heading for Europe, and will be facing some tough questions at exactly the moment he needs to enforce unity amongst both NATO and the EU, writes Gary Cartwright.

by gary cartwright
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On Friday of last week national security adviser Jake Sullivan announced that the U.S. will provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, reassuring that Kyiv has promised to use the controversial bombs carefully. This has brought condemnation from many of the 123 countries globally that have signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The critics of the move included UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who pointed out that the UK is “signatory to a convention which prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use”.

He continued, “We will continue to do our part to support Ukraine against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion, but we’ve done that by providing heavy battle tanks and most recently long-range weapons, and hopefully all countries can continue to support Ukraine.”

In fact, as Joe Biden himself pointed out, Sunak is legally obliged under the terms of the convention to condemn the move, however half-heartedly, under the rules of the 2008 convention.

Cluster bombs are a product of the 1960s, and are generally delivered by fixed-wing aircraft – of which Ukraine has very few at present – and are primarily anti-armour ordnance.

However, compared to the far more modern thermobaric weapons being used by Russia in the present conflict, often against civilian targets, they are far less likely to cause “collateral” damage. By their nature, they will also be very effective against the deep trenches that are sheltering dug in Russian infantry and artillery assets.

Under Secretary of Defence for Policy

Things are going a little slower than some had hoped, so this is to make sure that the Ukrainians have the confidence that they have what they need. But frankly, also that the Russians know that the Ukrainians are going to stay in the game,” – Dr. Colin Kahl, U.S. Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.

Dr. Kahl also pointed out that the bombs being supplied to Ukraine have been tested five times between 1998 and 2020, that the rate of unexploded duds is below 2.35 percent.

Unexploded bombs can remain covered by earth for many years, posing a long term hazard for generations to come.

The “dud rate” amongst bombs and artillery shells being used by Russia is reportedly as high as 40%.

While he declined to say how many bombs the the U.S. will initially send to Ukraine, Dr. Kahl said the U.S. has “hundreds of thousands” of cluster munitions available for Ukraine at the low dud rate.


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