British Battle Against Cluster Bombs: A Risky Move in Ukraine?

In spite of significant military expenditures in response to the Ukraine-Russia war, President Joe Biden’s administration has not accomplished its intended goals. A recent development has drawn widespread condemnation as this government has verified that it is sending ammunition and cluster bombs to Kyiv, leading to concerns about restricted weapon deployment. In light of President Biden’s announcement regarding providing cluster munitions to Ukraine, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom emphasized London’s active efforts in discouraging the use of cluster bombs. This article investigates the existing regulations concerning the utilization of cluster munitions in the United Kingdom.

Sending a cluster bomb to Ukraine started World War III.

As analysed by experts in international relations, the decision by the US to include cluster bombs in a fresh military package has the potential to exacerbate the tensions within the Ukraine-Russia conflict and even trigger a global conflict, possibly leading to a third world war. Despite assertions from the US that it engaged in extensive consultations with its allies before supplying cluster bombs to Ukraine, the diverse reactions from various nations shed light on the contrasting implications of this course of action.


The US aims to send cluster bombs to Ukraine.

According to a 2021 report published by the Cluster Munition Monitor, thousands of cluster bombs worldwide in 2020 were responsible for the deaths and injuries of civilians long after the war had stopped. Now the question raised in this report is, what are the goals of the US in sending cluster bombs to Ukraine?


New US military aid package to Ukraine

The Pentagon is expected to send thousands of cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of a new $800 million military aid package, the Associated Press reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. According to American media, the new US weapons package for Ukraine will probably include cluster bombs, which are prohibited by more than 120 countries.


Sacrificing civilians by sending cluster bombs to Ukraine

According to analysts, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which commenced on February 21, 2022, primarily due to the Western world’s disregard for Moscow’s escalating security apprehensions, has already incurred substantial human and economic tolls. In light of these circumstances, the recent decision by the United States to dispatch cluster munitions to Ukraine is anticipated to yield no outcomes beyond an escalation in civilian casualties.


Rishi Sunak’s lack of support for Biden’s decision

On the eve of the US President’s visit to London, the British Prime Minister announced that the country does not support Washington’s decision to send cluster bombs to Kyiv. Rishi Sunak said in an interview with reporters that the UK is one of the 123 countries that have signed the convention banning the use of these weapons and will continue to focus on providing tanks and long-range weapons to help fight against Russia.

Rishi Sunak said: “We will continue to do our part to support Ukraine against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion, but we’ve done that by providing heavy battle tanks and, most recently, long-range weapons, and hopefully all countries can continue to support Ukraine.”


Provisions of the Convention on Cluster Munitions

The Convention on Cluster Munitions is an international treaty prohibiting any use, transfer, production and stockpiling of these bombs. This treaty was ratified on May 30, 2008, in Dublin and was made available for signature on December 3, 2008, in the capital of Norway (Oslo). USA, Russia and Ukraine are among the countries that have not signed this treaty.


Joe Biden’s reasons for sending cluster bombs to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden said in an interview with CNN that sending cluster bombs to Ukraine was a “difficult decision,” but Kyiv needs these bombs. He claimed that he made this decision due to consultation with American allies and members of Congress, But so far, several European countries and international organisations have protested against him.


Committing war crimes using cluster bombs

On the other hand, America’s decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine comes when a group of experts consider using these munitions as an example of committing war crimes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked Russia and Ukraine to stop using cluster munitions during the current war and asked the United States not to provide these munitions to Kyiv. This group claims that Russian and Ukrainian forces have used these weapons, killing Ukrainian civilians.


The dangers of cluster bombs to civilians and children

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also said that cluster bombs can cause significant civilian casualties, and this is something that can be prevented. What makes the use of cluster bombs controversial is the dangers they pose to civilians. These munitions are detonated in the air and spread many smaller bombs over a large area, which carries the risk of indiscriminate killing of civilians.

Furthermore, smaller bombs might not detonate upon impact with damp terrain or soft surfaces, posing an enduring threat to civilian lives, particularly children, over an extended period. Analysts highlight that the visual similarity of these undetonated bombs to diminutive playthings strewn on the ground is a contributing factor that heightens the peril for children.


The point of view of the analysts of the Ukraine-Russia war

Experts studying the Ukraine-Russia conflict suggest that a motivating factor behind the US’s decision to approve the shipment of these munitions to Ukraine lies in the unfavourable conditions on the battlefield for Ukraine. 

To justify their decision, American authorities have utilised reasoning reminiscent of the justifications for deploying atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Admittedly, while acknowledging that sending cluster bombs heightens the potential for civilian casualties, they contend that permitting Russia to seize Ukrainian territory exposes even more civilian lives to jeopardy.


Efforts to prevent the use of cluster bombs

Cluster Munition Monitor, trying to stop these bombs in conflicts, said that cluster bombs have been used in over 20 states during armed conflict in over 35 countries. According to the information of this coalition, the United States used these bombs in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. It should be noted that the Ukraine-Russia war was triggered by the West’s inattention to Moscow’s security concerns and the expansion of NATO forces near the borders of Russia. Moscow attacked Ukraine after ignoring its security concerns from the West, especially the United States.


Ignoring the ban on the use of cluster bombs

The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl, staunchly defended the White House’s resolution to grant an additional $800 million in security aid to Ukraine, encompassing cluster munitions, without remorse. Kahl maintained that despite being aware of the calamitous repercussions, such as civilian harm caused by cluster bombs, the ultimate victory over Russia holds a higher value. It’s worth noting that the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) explicitly bans this ordnance category. Ratified by over 100 nations in 2008, the convention is a significant international agreement. Notably, the United States declined to become a signatory to this pact.

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