The United States is actively considering the possibility of providing cluster munitions to Ukraine, disclosed Army Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Friday. General Milley stated that the U.S. has been contemplating this move for quite some time. He highlighted that Russian forces have been deploying cluster munitions on the battlefield in Ukraine, while Ukrainian forces have already received these weapons from other allies and have successfully utilized them in combat.
Milley made these remarks during a speaking engagement at the National Press Club. He emphasized that discussions continue to take place regarding the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine, as the Ukrainians have specifically requested them and other European countries have already offered similar assistance. Milley underscored that the usage of cluster munitions by Russian troops continues to be a concerning factor. He concluded by stating that a decision-making process is currently ongoing.
Furthermore, Milley addressed concerns that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is progressing too slowly. He acknowledged that the initial campaign was expected to last around six to ten weeks, noting the challenges and complexities involved. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged caution, reminding everyone not to have any illusions about the difficulties and duration of the ongoing conflict.
Cluster bombs are weaponry that opens in the air and disperses submunitions, sometimes known as “bomblets,” over a large area. The primary objective of this weapon is to inflict widespread destruction on multiple targets simultaneously. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) explains that cluster bombs can be delivered through various means such as airplanes, artillery, and missiles. However, these munitions also possess a significant failure rate, with up to 40 percent of “bomblets” failing to explode in recent conflicts, according to the ICRC. Critics argue that cluster bombs pose significant risks to civilians, as they have an indiscriminate nature and can cause harm long after they have been deployed.
It remains uncertain how the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine by the United States would be received by its NATO allies. This issue has the potential to cause division within the international alliance, as the majority of NATO countries are signatories to a 2010 convention banning the use, production, or stockpiling of cluster munitions. The United States, Russia, and Ukraine are not party to the cluster bomb ban.
Last week, Laura Cooper, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense focusing on Russia and Ukraine, testified before Congress, stating that the Pentagon had assessed that the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine would assist their efforts against Russia’s entrenched positions.
The discussions regarding the potential provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine come at a time when some U.S. officials express concerns over the sluggish pace of the anticipated counteroffensive. While most Western officials refrain from making public statements about Ukraine’s progress, there is a growing sentiment among Ukraine’s allies that they must make use of favorable weather conditions, the situation on the ground, and any potential impact from recent events to advance their position against Russia.
While the United States has reiterated that the timing and location of Ukraine’s actions are solely its own decision, concerns remain about the perceived lack of urgency. For months, the U.S. and its Western allies have provided training and equipment to Ukrainian forces in preparation for this conflict. However, many of these forces have yet to actively engage in combat.