President Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday and announced a new tranche of US military aid for Ukraine that includes more cluster bombs, which are notorious for killing and maiming civilians.
The arms package is worth $325 million and uses the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), which allows Biden to ship arms directly from US military stockpiles. The $325 million is being pulled from funds that became available after the Pentagon said it overvalued previous arms shipments to Ukraine, an “accounting error” that freed up an additional $6.2 billion in PDA to fuel the war.
The cluster bombs, known as dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM), are provided in the form of 155mm artillery rounds, which spread small sub-munitions over a large area. The arms package also includes air defense systems, HIMARS ammunition, other artillery rounds, and other equipment.
When announcing the arms package, President Biden said the first batch of Abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine next week. The tanks will be armed with depleted uranium rounds, a toxic ammunition linked to cancer and birth defects.
According to the Pentagon, the $325 million arms package includes the following:
- AIM-9M missiles for air defense
- Additional ammunition for HIMARS
- Avenger air defense systems
- .50 caliber machine guns to counter Unmanned Aerial Systems
- 155mm artillery rounds, including DPICM
- 105mm artillery rounds
- Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles
- Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems
- Over 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition
- 59 light tactical vehicles
- Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing
- Spare parts, maintenance, and other field equipment
The US sent its first shipment of cluster bombs to Ukraine in July. To do so, President Biden had to bypass US law that prohibits the transfer of cluster munitions with a higher than 1% dud rate, which refers to the percentage of submunitions that are left unexploded and can be found by civilians for years or decades after the conflict.
According to The New York Times, the cluster munitions sent to Ukraine are expected to have a dud rate of about 14%. To get around the law, Biden invoked 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 vital for national security.
Due to their indiscriminate nature, cluster bombs are banned by more than 100 countries under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but the US, Ukraine, and Russia are not signatories to that treaty. As the US has been pouring cluster bombs into Ukraine, other countries have been destroying their stockpiles.