Washington's Alarming Decision to Supply Cluster Munitions to Ukraine

By Imran Khalid | Gwadar Pro Jul 11, 2023

Editor's Note: The writer is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

A collective anxiety is being witnessed across the globe over the Biden administration's intent to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, reflecting a tarnished moral pedestal and a blatant indictment of Ukraine's floundering war efforts. U.S. officials, adept at evading culpability, vehemently dismiss any insinuation that their actions may undermine the lofty principles about human rights they claim to champion. However, it is an undeniable truth that this despicable act also serves as a disconcerting reminder of America's incessant pursuit of dominance and its willingness to aggravate the Ukraine conflict. This decision not only exposes the United States' complicity in perpetuating the horrors of war but also hints at the distressing reality that Kyiv is not faring well in its conflict.

The harsh truth cannot be denied: the Ukrainian counteroffensive, despite loud claims, has fallen short of success. Alarming amounts of ammunition are being expended by Ukraine, depleting their stocks to a critical level—an admission made all too candidly by President Biden himself. Although both sides, Russia and Ukraine, find themselves locked in a grueling stalemate with no immediate victory in sight, the United States has chosen an alarming course of action in a reckless bid to bolster Ukraine's efforts and exploit a perceived vulnerability in Putin's regime following the Wagner incident. This course of action involves supplying Ukraine with cluster munitions—weapons widely condemned and banned by international consensus.

Astonishingly, instead of heeding the concerns raised and rejecting Ukraine's request for these prohibited arms, the U.S. has chosen to comply, fully aware of the grave dangers they entail. This ill-advised decision not only disregards human rights but also undermines the very fabric of international norms that seek to protect civilians from the lasting impacts of these indiscriminate bombs.

During a White House press briefing on July 7, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made a derisory attempt to justify the rationale behind this decision. He argued that the provision of cluster munitions was driven by an assessment of Ukraine's immediate needs on the ground, particularly its reliance on artillery for both offensive and defensive operations. While the Biden administration seeks to rationalize its backing of Ukraine by citing the "exigencies" of the conflict, it is essential not to overlook the potential consequences stemming from this choice.

The strategic calculations of supporting Ukraine's offensive operations should not come at the cost of disregarding the fundamental principles of humanitarianism and the long-term consequences inflicted on civilian populations. By endorsing the usage of cluster munitions, the United States is willingly entering into morally dubious territory, perpetuating conflicts and exacerbating human suffering. The lethal aftermath of these munitions is undeniable, with unexploded submunitions posing a lingering threat to civilian populations long after the fighting ceases.

The painful legacy of cluster munitions, as demonstrated in Vietnam and Laos, serves as a poignant reminder of their catastrophic impact on civilian populations. Decades after the Vietnam War, unexploded remnants continue to plague these regions, wreaking havoc on rural communities heavily reliant on agriculture. These haunting examples underscore the urgent imperative to address the devastating consequences of cluster munitions, as their continuing presence hampers human suffering.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, a vital international treaty that unequivocally prohibits the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of cluster munitions, is undermined by the fact that the United States, Russia, and Ukraine have all failed to become signatories to this crucial agreement. This disregard for the treaty perpetuates the alarming presence and potential devastation of cluster bombs in conflicts around the world. The ban on cluster bombs stands as a testament to their indiscriminate and long-lasting danger to civilian populations.

Whether delivered through artillery, rockets, or missiles, these weapons scatter numerous submunitions over vast areas, posing an ongoing threat even after deployment. Their insidious nature makes it challenging to identify and neutralize these deadly remnants, resulting in the maiming and death of innocent individuals, particularly children. The devastating consequences of cluster munitions serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to eliminate these weapons from the arsenal of warfare.

Such a brazen disregard for the well-being of innocent lives reveals a distressing departure from the principles that the U.S. claims to uphold. In a world that strives for progress, peace, and the protection of human dignity, the United States' choice to provide Ukraine with banned cluster munitions is a jarring reminder of Washington's willingness to compromise its own principles in pursuit of strategic gain. It is certainly a frightening stance that tarnishes America's reputation as a global advocate for justice and human rights.

The Ukraine war has become a glaring example of the murky dynamics surrounding weapons supply and deployment, with the United States taking center stage. Despite the widespread condemnation of these indiscriminate weapons by a coalition of civil society organizations, the Biden administration remains undeterred. These groups rightfully assert that cluster munitions not only cause immense harm to civilians during conflicts but also continue to pose a threat for years after hostilities have ceased.

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