Ukraine to Get Cluster Munitions, US to Announce New Military Aid Package

Foreign Affairs

Washington: The Biden administration has decided to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine and is expected to announce that the Pentagon will send thousands as part of a new military aid package worth up to $800 million for the war effort against Russia, according to people familiar with the decision.

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The decision comes despite widespread concerns that the controversial bombs can cause civilian casualties. The Pentagon will provide munitions that have a reduced “dud rate,” meaning there will be far fewer unexploded rounds that can result in unintended civilian deaths.

The weapons will come from Pentagon stocks and will also include Bradley and Stryker armoured vehicles and an array of ammunition, such as rounds for howitzers and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, officials said.

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Long sought by Ukraine, cluster bombs are weapons that open in the air, releasing submunitions, or “bomblets,” that are dispersed over a large area and are intended to wreak destruction on multiple targets at once.

Ukrainian officials have asked for the weapons to aid their campaign to push through lines of Russian troops and make gains in the ongoing counteroffensive. Russian forces are already using cluster munitions on the battlefield, U.S. officials have said.

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According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, some cluster munitions leave behind “bomblets’’ that have a high rate of failure to explode — up to 40% in some cases.

At Pentagon briefing, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said he had no announcement to make about cluster munitions. He said the Defence Department has “multiple variants” of the munitions and “the ones that we are considering providing would not include older variants with (unexploding) rates that are higher than 2.35%.”

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Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the US has been thinking about providing the cluster munitions “for a long time.”

“The Ukrainians have asked for it, other European countries have provided some of that, the Russians are using it,” Milley said during a speech at the National Press Club.

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