Biden Had To Waive a Law That Prohibits the Transfer of Such Weapons That Have a Failure Rate of More Than 1 Percent
Cluster bombs, despite their proven effectiveness in warfare, pose a significant threat to civilians due to their high rate of remaining undetonated upon impact — up to 40% of the time. When used, they are a lasting concern on territory soil for decades after a war’s end.
More than 120 nations have agreed not to use, supply, deliver or manufacture stockpile cluster munitions, including a large portion of American allies. Despite the U.S. and Russia not being signatories, the Cluster Munition Coalition says that about 99% of stockpiles have been destroyed since adoption of the convention in 2008.
While Ukraine may benefit from the Biden administration’s supply of cluster bombs in the short term, various human rights organizations have rejected the decision, making it clear that the impacts could kill citizens for years to come.
An article from The Guardian noted, “The US dropped an estimated 260m cluster munitions in Laos between 1964 and 1973. So far, fewer than 400,000 – or 0.47% – have been cleared and at least 11,000 people have been killed, according to Reuters.”
Ukraine’s urgent request for new weapons is a result of their counteroffensive into Russia, and the fact that they have used so many artillery shells, with suppliers struggling to keep up sufficient production.
Cluster bombs are “delivered by artillery, a 155-millimeter shell packed with 72 armor-piercing, soldier-killing bomblets can strike from 20 miles away and scatter them over a vast area.”
President Biden made his decision with the hope that Ukraine would not be left defenseless against Russia’s constant attacks until conventional artillery rounds are produced in bulks large enough to be distributed into Ukraine.
Biden said that he came to an agreement with the Defense Department, and this is not by any means a permanent decision to flood Ukraine with such weaponry.
At a Pentagon briefing earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said that the Defense Department has various types of cluster munitions, but he said “the ones that we are considering providing would not include older variants with (unexploding) rates that are higher than 2.35 percent.”
In an interview with CNN, President Biden said, “It was a very difficult decision on my part — and by the way, I discussed this with our allies, I discussed this with our friends up on the Hill.”
There has been some bi-partisan pushback in Congress, but with the majority of both parties being hawks on Ukraine, the opposition is not expected to have much power.
To approve these weapons and provide for a suffering Ukraine, Biden “had to waive a law that prohibits the transfer of such weapons that have a failure rate of more than 1 percent.”