The United States recently entered a controversial new phase in its ongoing effort to prop up Ukraine’s military amid that country’s ongoing war with Russia.
In a statement on Friday, the Biden administration confirmed that it would be sending a new package of military weapons and equipment valued at $800 million — and the shipment would include cluster munitions. These devices, which are designed to release a large number of small bombs that can cover a huge target, have been widely condemned across ideological lines due to the overwhelming risk that the blasts will indiscriminately kill civilians.
Just last year, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki declared that if Russia were to use cluster bombs, “it would potentially be a war crime.”
President Joe Biden has also spoken out forcefully against the use of such munitions, asserting more than four decades ago that reports of Israel’s use of cluster bombs could be justification for cutting off U.S. aid to the longtime ally.
Although 123 nations around the world have joined a convention aimed at prohibiting the production or stockpiling cluster munitions, it is worth noting that the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine are not among them.
Not only is there an immediate threat to non-military targets, but experts say that cluster bombs have a so-called “dud rate” of nearly 40%, which means that unexploded bombs could pose a risk for years to come.
In light of these concerns and Biden’s previous position, critics on both sides of the aisle are condemning the administration’s latest action.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is vying against Biden in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary race, railed against the “horrific” weapons in a tweet calling out the current administration.
Cluster bombs are munitions so horrific for civilians that more than a hundred nations have signed an international treaty banning them. Now the Biden administration is preparing to send them to Ukraine.https://t.co/Ck2gSm0SOj
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) July 7, 2023
Despite the backlash, Biden defended the decision in a recent CNN interview by declaring that Ukraine needs a massive infusion of weaponry in order to maintain its counteroffensive.
“They’re trying to get through those trenches and stop those tanks from rolling,” he said. “But it was not an easy decision. We’re not signatories to that agreement, but it took me a while to be convinced to do it.”