Delivery of Controversial Cluster Munitions to Ukraine Being Weighed by US, No Final Decision Yet

Foreign Affairs

Washington: The Biden administration is actively considering whether to provide Ukraine with controversial cluster munitions but has not reached a final decision, a senior US official said.

The dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICMs) are surface-to-surface warheads designed to explode and then disperse smaller munitions that themselves are designed to explode over a wider area. However, when those bomblets don’t explode, civilians are at increased risk of death or injury if they accidentally stumble upon them and trigger an explosion. That risk, along with pushback from partners and allies, in part, has so far prompted the administration to shy away from sending the weapons to Ukraine.

However, a senior official said the decision is now being weighed more closely and a change could be afoot. Although the official did not detail why the administration may change course, they noted that since Ukraine and Russia have both been using similar cluster munitions throughout the conflict, there is already a need to “clean up” the unexploded ordinances scattered about.

When asked about the pending DPICM decision, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen Mark Milley said it is a decision that President Joe Biden will need to make.

“As far as decision making goes, we, as part of the process, we consider all kinds of options,” the four-star general told an audience at a National Press Club event. “One of my jobs … is to tee up an option for the president, any president, and lay out what that option is, and what the cost risks and benefits are.”

“We have been thinking about DPICM for a long time, Ukrainians have asked for it,” he later added.  “Other European countries have provided some of that, the Russians are using it. So yes, of course, there’s decision making process ongoing and it’s a continuous ongoing process.”

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the pending decision. And, it is not immediately clear to what extent Washington is consulting with foreign allies and partners about this decision, especially given that countries including France, Germany and the United Kingdom are signatories on the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. (The US, Russia and Ukraine have not signed on to the treaty).