Time Bomb For Civilian Safety: U.S. To Send Cluster Munitions To Ukraine

Upon Ukraine’s request, the United States has agreed to provide the country with cluster munitions, a decision that has sparked controversy. The U.S. has justified this action as a means to address Ukraine’s shortage of conventional artillery shells and assist in its counter-offensive efforts. However, cluster munitions are prohibited in over 100 countries worldwide under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions because of the lasting danger they pose to civilians, even long after conflicts have ended.

Indeed, cluster bombs are a type of munition consisting of rockets, missiles, or artillery shells that are deployed from the ground or air. These weapons carry numerous small bomblets that are dispersed over a wide area upon release. Even despite efforts to target specific zones, there is a significant risk of explosions occurring in civilian areas, thereby endangering the lives of non-combatants. Moreover, the bomblets often fail to detonate upon impact or otherwise remain dormant until a later time. Civilians are therefore exposed to these bomblets – and children are at particular risk, as, if the bombs are picked up out of curiosity, they may explode in their hands.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, the use of cluster munitions by both the Ukrainian and Russian armies has led to the injuries and deaths of dozens of civilians, as demonstrated by the 2022 Russian attack on the city of Izium, which armed many Ukrainian civilians. However, according to Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, the Ukrainian army will know how “to use any weapon system they have in a way that minimizes the risk to these citizens.”

This is not a perspective embraced by the 100 countries that decided to adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008. Then-Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon supported this ratification, speaking at the time of “not only the world’s collective revulsion at these abhorrent weapons but also the power of collaboration among governments, civil society and the United Nations to change attitudes and policies on a threat faced by all humankind.” Some states, such as the United States, Ukraine, and Russia, have chosen not to ratify the convention. Despite this, the United States has implemented measures to restrict their use under specific conditions. Consequently, the White House had to bypass Congress, invoke the Foreign Assistance Act, and waive arms export restrictions to provide Ukraine with the bombs, considering the provision of aid to be too crucial to its national security interests to allow those measures to be overruled.

I believe these actions are hypocritical, given that Washington has condemned Russia’s alleged war crimes involving the use of this same type of weapon. The situation adds to the troubling logic of warfare, where supplying weapons is often seen as more significant support than contributing to the process of diplomatic negotiation. While it is ultimately Ukraine’s decision to select its defence arsenal, I am of the opinion that America bears a responsibility for the weapons it provides to Ukraine, particularly when much of the international community justifiably condemns these weapons due to the harm they cause civilians.

We must keep in mind that the countries supporting Ukraine should do so in a manner that considers the long-term consequences of their actions and which prioritizes peace and stability. While providing short-term military advantages to Ukraine through these weapons might seem tempting, we cannot overlook the importance of protecting the human rights and security of civilians caught in the conflict. Instead of escalating tensions further, I strongly believe that favouring dialogue and negotiations would be a wiser approach. The conflict has already been devastating, and seeking peaceful solutions should be our priority.


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