A Ukrainian military official suggested to The Washington Post that Ukrainian forces are not documenting where they’re using US-provided cluster bombs in Ukraine despite assurances the Biden administration said it received.
The official, who only went by his first name, Stanislav, detailed Ukraine’s use of cluster bombs, which scatter small submunitions over large areas and are extremely hazardous to civilians.
The report reads: “In welcoming the US decision to send the munitions, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Kyiv will keep a ‘strict record of the use of these weapons and the local zones where they will be used.’ But when asked about how the documentation process works, Stanislav suggested that there was none.”
A Ukrainian public affairs officer insisted to the Post that Ukrainian artillery crews write down what type of munition they use and in what direction it’s fired after every use of US-made M109 howitzers. But the comments from Stanislav, a member of Ukraine’s 14th Mechanized Brigade and part of a crew that fires cluster bombs with M109s, signal that’s not the case.
Cluster bombs are so hazardous to civilians because many of the submunitions, or bomblets, do not explode on impact and can be found years or decades later. Documenting where cluster bombs are used would make future clean-up efforts easier, although the weapons are hard to track since they spread submunitions over such a large area.
The Post report noted that the US had given Ukraine older cluster munitions, known as dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM), the production of which ended in the 1990s. The New York Times has estimated that the dud rate for the DPICMs that have been provided for Ukraine would be about 14%. Because of the high dud rate, President Biden had to bypass US law that prohibits the production, use, or transfer of cluster munitions with a dud rate of over 1%.
Biden got around the law by using an obscure provision of the Foreign Assistance Act that allows the US to provide weapons regardless of export controls if the president determines doing so is a vital national security interest even though continuing to fuel a proxy war against the world’s largest nuclear-armed state is a huge risk to US national security.
Due to their indiscriminate nature, cluster bombs are banned by over 100 countries. But the US, Ukraine, and Russia are not parties to the treaty, known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions.