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US Congress pushes Biden to send cluster munitions to Ukraine

US Congress pushes Biden to send cluster munitions to Ukraine US President Joe Biden (GettyImages)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on the administration of US President Joe Biden to send cluster munition to Ukraine. It could help Kyiv break through fortified Russian lines that have slowed the ongoing counteroffensive, as Foreign Policy reports.

The bipartisan group, led by the Helsinki Commission, sent a letter to Biden on Friday urging the White House to send Ukraine dual-purpose improved conventional munitions, commonly known as DPICM, to assist in the counteroffensive.

"The weapon, which can be fired from artillery cannons and scatter up to 88 bomblets onto the battlefield, could help Ukraine cut through Russian tanks and dug-in positions. But if not cleaned up, the bomblets can be left to kill and maim civilians long after the fighting has died down", the media says.

Considering potential human rights concerns, lawmakers said that Ukraine has been a “responsible steward” of US-provided weapons since the beginning of the war.

“During the Cold War, DPICMs were developed and fielded specifically to counter Russia’s numerical and material superiority,” the lawmakers wrote to Biden. “And now they can be put to their intended use in Ukraine’s defense - and Ukraine’s defense of Europe, and ultimately, US national security.”

Former Advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Den Rice, said that when DPICM reaches its target, it kills many more Russians. Submunitions delivered by DPICM have a cumulative charge that can penetrate armor from 4 to 8 inches (10.16 - 20.32 cm). "So technically, to destroy a platoon or a company, you would need to shoot a lot less," he said.

Military analysts say that DPICM can help address Ukraine's artillery shortage.

Other experts argue that sending cluster munitions will undermine international arms control regimes, including the Convention on Cluster Munitions, aimed at preventing the global proliferation of these controversial munitions that scatter explosive bombs over large areas. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the convention. At the same time, the United States is currently prohibited from exporting DPICM. However, the Biden administration seems to be leaning towards the possibility of providing weapons. Therefore, the US president could give Congress an instruction that would allow transferring.

Ukraine has already received DPICMs from other NATO allies

The media reported that last autumn, Turkey allegedly began sending US-developed cluster munition to Ukraine. However, the United States has a much larger arsenal of such weapons - lawmakers believe that the stockpiles amount to about 3 million units, which can be used with 155mm howitzers.

There is also information that at the beginning of this year, Ukrainian forces used cluster munition in an attempt to regain territory in eastern Donbas.

Ukraine pushes to obtain cluster munitions

As early as the end of 2022, CNN reported that Ukraine had asked the United States to provide it with cluster warheads for multiple rocket launchers and artillery shells, but the Biden administration was not prepared to fulfill this request.

In February 2023, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on Western allies to provide Ukraine with such weapons. However, this request was criticized in Germany.

At the same time, the media reported that Estonia was considering transferring cluster munition to Ukraine, but Germany's consent is needed.