The Biden administration is weighing sending highly controversial weapons to Ukraine, despite 100 countries agreeing to ban cluster munitions warheads more than a decade ago.
The request from Ukraine, described to CNN by multiple officials, comes amid criticism from Republicans that President Joe Biden has essentially signed a blank check to fund Ukraine’s war with Russia and has heeded the Eastern European country’s every plea for help.
It also follows Biden already proposing sending an additional $37.7 billion in aid to Ukraine in next year’s funding bill, which would bring the total assistance amount to a whopping $105.5 billion in less than one year.
Ukraine’s request for cluster munition warheads, which the Biden team has been considering for several months without outright rejecting it, is one of the most controversial requests made since the war began in February.
A cluster munition is an explosive weapon that releases smaller submunitions. They are imprecise by design and can cover large areas. Since some fail to explode on impact, they can also pose longer-term risks – similar to landmines.
A Ukraine official told CNN that the U.S. has not approved the request yet because they are worried that the munitions would be used against the Russian people and not just the military.
‘So what, Russians use cluster munitions against us,’ the official said when asked about the negative perception of using cluster munition warheads. ‘The [US] worry is about collateral damage. We are going to use them against Russian troops, not against the Russian population.’
President Joe Biden’s administration has been weighing for months a request from Ukraine to send highly controversial cluster munitions warheads to aid in the war against Russia. Pictured: A slew of missile shell remnants used by Russia to attack Ukraine pictured collected in Kharkiv, Ukraine on December 7
Biden’s team has not outright rejected the request after already sending $67.3 billion to aid Ukraine over the last 10 months
Cluster munitions are prohibited in nations that ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which was adopted in Dublin, Ireland in May 2008. The United States is not one of the countries on that lengthy list who have rallied against use of the weapon.
The international treaty was signed by 123 countries as of February 2022. While 110 states have ratified the treaty, 13 states signed it but have not yet ratified it.
According to Cluster Munition Monitor 2022, the 16 countries that refused to sign the Convention and still produce cluster munitions included Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Israel, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States and Turkey.
‘The ability of Ukraine to make gains in current and upcoming phases of conflict is in no way dependent on or linked to their procuring said munitions,’ a congressional aide told CNN.
The U.S. has already sent $67.3 billion in aid to Ukraine as part of three separate packages.
Of that assistance, more than half – 38.3 billion – has gone toward military aid to help arm and weaponize Ukraine. The rest has funded humanitarian efforts, Ukraine’s government and other domestic initiatives by the U.S. government related to the war.
Cluster munitions (pictured) are prohibited in more than 100 countries after they ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was adopted in Dublin, Ireland in May 2008. There are 16 countries that refused to sign the Convention and still produce cluster munitions: Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Israel, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States and Turkey
Republicans are demanding answers for how exactly the money has been allocated and what is has been used for as they slam Biden for the mass amount of money he has been able to get through Congress to assist Ukraine.
Far-right Marjorie Taylor Greene proposed an audit of the piles of money Biden sent to Ukraine.
Although the measure was defeated in a 26-22 vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, mainstream Republicans showed support for Greene’s proposal.
The vote is the strongest signal yet that Republicans will put Biden’s support for the Ukraine war effort under stricter scrutiny when the new Congress is sworn in and the GOP takes a majority in the lower chamber in January.
Democrats, who still control the House Foreign Affairs Committee for now, said a vote to audit the money could send a message to Ukraine that the U.S. does not support its war with Russia.
Russia has been using cluster munitions in its war with Ukraine. The weapon is imprecise by design and deploys scatter ‘bomblets’ that can pose a long-term risk if they fail to explode on impact
Republican Senator Josh Hawley, a longtime China hawk, also insists that it’s time to move on and shift focus to prioritizing sending arms to Taiwan rather than Ukraine.
‘Taiwan is Beijing’s next step toward dominating the Indo-Pacific region,’ Hawley wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. ‘If Beijing succeeds, it would have dire ramifications for Americans’ national security, as well as our economic security and freedom of action.’
The Missouri senator argued that Chinese encroachment on the Indo-Pacific was a bigger threat to the U.S. than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He also noted that the 10 months-long effort to arm Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s aggression was ‘impeding’ the U.S.’s ability to prevent war in Asia.
‘Averting the real and growing threat from China requires us to expedite delivery to Taiwan of the weapons it needs to defend itself—provided Taiwan commits to an asymmetric defense, significantly increases its own defense spending, and pursues necessary defense reforms,’ he wrote in the letter. ‘Your Administration, however, is doing the reverse. You are prioritizing arms to Ukraine over our vital security interests in Asia.’