British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed the UK’s disapproval of the use of cluster munitions, stating this after the United States announced its decision to send these bombs to Ukraine. While speaking to reporters during a by-election campaign stop in Selby on Saturday, Sunak emphasized the UK’s commitment to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the production or use of these weapons. Instead of providing cluster munitions, the UK is supporting Ukraine with tanks and long-range weapons.
Sunak highlighted the UK’s opposition to cluster munitions while announcing that he will be meeting President Joe Biden in London on Monday ahead of a NATO summit. He stated that the UK condemns Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which has caused immense suffering to millions of people. Sunak expressed his hope that all countries can continue to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
The use of cluster bombs has stirred controversy among NATO allies. Cluster munitions are designed to release small bombs, known as bomblets, over a wide area to target multiple objectives simultaneously. However, humanitarian organizations including Human Rights Watch have raised concerns about these devices due to the high rate of unexploded bomblets, which pose a significant risk to civilians, particularly children.
More than 100 countries, including the UK and several other NATO members, have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions to prohibit the use of these weapons. However, the United States and Russia are not party to the treaty. National security adviser Jake Sullivan estimated that Russian forces have dispersed tens of millions of bomblets in their attempt to take over Ukraine, with a dud rate of 30 to 40 percent. In contrast, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl stated that US munitions have a dud rate of only 2.5 percent.
Opinions on the US decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine are divided. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his support for President Biden, calling the decision difficult but necessary to protect innocent people. Johnson argued that helping Ukraine win the conflict quickly would save lives and emphasized that it is the Ukrainians who will use these weapons on their own soil for self-defense. However, Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons Defense Committee, urged the US to reconsider, citing concerns about the long-term impact on civilians due to unexploded ordnance.
The opposition Labour Party also voiced its opposition to the use of cluster munitions. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves emphasized the need for Ukraine to be properly armed against Russia, but expressed concerns about the appropriateness of cluster bombs. Reeves stated that other countries share these concerns and questioned if these weapons are suitable for the current situation.
In conclusion, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to discouraging the use of cluster munitions while supporting Ukraine with tanks and long-range weapons. The decision by the United States to send these weapons to Ukraine has sparked mixed reactions, with some supporting the move to help Ukraine defend itself, and others expressing concerns about the long-term humanitarian impact of cluster munitions. The issue of cluster munitions will likely continue to be a topic of discussion at the upcoming NATO summit.