The United Nations (UN) has expressed its condemnation of the use of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition, following the announcement by the Pentagon that it will provide Ukraine with such rounds for their M1 Abrams tanks. Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, stated that the organization is against the use of DU ammunition anywhere in the world. The US government plans to send an unspecified number of 120mm DU rounds to Ukraine as part of a $175-million military aid package. These anti-tank rounds are intended for use with the M1 Abrams tanks that were promised to Ukraine earlier this year.
The decision by the US to supply Ukraine with DU ammunition mirrors the action taken by the UK, which sent DU rounds for use with their Challenger 2 tanks. The delivery of DU ammunition to Ukraine was first announced by the Wall Street Journal in June, and was recently leaked to Reuters. Critics who oppose the use of DU ammunition have argued that it is responsible for increasing rates of cancer and birth defects in regions where it has been used, such as Iraq and Serbia. They claim that uranium dust from the ammunition is toxic when handled or inhaled.
Both the British and American militaries have disregarded concerns raised by Russia regarding the potential environmental contamination caused by DU ammunition. They have instead dismissed these concerns and suggested that Russia is afraid of the highly effective nature of the rounds. The US and its allies have provided Ukraine with over $100 billion worth of weapons, ammunition, and military equipment in the past 18 months, although they maintain that this does not make them a party to the conflict. These deliveries have included cluster munitions, which are banned by most NATO members. Ukraine is reportedly required to account for their use directly to the Pentagon. Russia has documented multiple instances in which such ordnance was used against civilian targets.
The controversy surrounding the use of DU ammunition raises questions about the potential health and environmental risks associated with these rounds. While the US and UK assert that the DU rounds are not radioactive and do not pose a radiological hazard, critics argue otherwise. They point to scientific studies that suggest exposure to uranium dust can have detrimental effects on human health. The UN’s condemnation of the use of DU ammunition adds weight to these concerns.
In conclusion, the decision by the Pentagon to provide Ukraine with DU ammunition for their M1 Abrams tanks has drawn criticism from the UN and raised questions about the potential risks associated with these rounds. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, coupled with the use of controversial weapons and ammunition, further complicates the situation and underscores the need for a peaceful resolution. The international community must pay close attention to the consequences of providing military aid in such conflicts and consider the potential long-term effects on both the population and the environment.