The United States may make a decision on whether to send cluster munitions to Ukraine this week, according to CBS News, which cited unnamed US officials. The Ukrainian government and its supporters in the US have been advocating for this move for several months.
Cluster munitions are a type of weapon that spreads numerous small bomblets over a wide area. Some of these submunitions do not explode upon impact and can remain dangerous for decades, posing a particular risk to children who may unknowingly come across them. More than 100 countries, including some NATO members, have signed a convention prohibiting the use of cluster munitions. However, the US, Ukraine, and Russia are among the countries that have not signed onto the agreement. The specific artillery shells that Ukraine is requesting from the Pentagon are the dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM), which the US stockpiled in large quantities during the Cold War.
The Pentagon has carried out an assessment and determined that Ukraine could greatly benefit from these weapons in its conflict with Russia. During a US House subcommittee meeting last month, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper pointed to “existing congressional restrictions” and concerns about allied unity as obstacles to delivering cluster munitions to Ukraine. However, members of the congressional Helsinki Commission have urged the White House to overcome these obstacles, arguing that Ukraine would use the weapons effectively to counter Russia’s superior numbers and resources. They believe that supplying Ukraine with this untapped arsenal would ultimately contribute to peace in Europe.
While Kiev launched a long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia last month, it has failed to make significant territorial gains. Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have blamed the slow delivery of Western arms for the lackluster results, claiming that it gave Russia time to prepare its defenses. Moscow, on the other hand, has accused the US and its allies of waging a proxy war against Russia, in which Ukraine serves as one of the tools. Russian officials argue that Western arms supplies only prolong the conflict and would not alter its ultimate outcome.
The decision on whether to send cluster munitions to Ukraine carries significant implications for the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. It remains to be seen how the US government will navigate the concerns surrounding these weapons and their potential impact. The situation will undoubtedly continue to be closely monitored by international observers and stakeholders involved in the conflict.