The Washington Post: Biden approves delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine

Maryna LisnychukPolitics
Biden approves U.S. delivery of cluster munitions to AFU: WP

U.S. President Joe Biden approved the delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine. The transfer will most likely be carried out by bypassing legislation with the help of a rarely used provision.

The U.S. Defense Department must be officially notified of the withdrawal of these weapons from its stockpile by the end of July 7. The Washington Post wrote about it.

According to it, the step provides a circumvention of the U.S. legislation prohibiting the production, use and transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1% (unexploded submunitions). The relevant decisions were made amid concerns about the alleged delay in Ukraine's counterattack against Russian forces and the reduction of Western conventional artillery stockpiles.

Agreement on the issue of cluster munitions for the AFU was reached after months of internal debate over whether to supply the controversial munitions, which are banned by most countries in the world. After all, cluster weapons explode in the air over the target, releasing dozens to hundreds of smaller submunitions over a wide area. However, some of them may not explode.


The main ammunition being considered for transfer is the M864 artillery shells, which first began to be produced in 1987. They are fired from 155mm howitzers, which the U.S. and other countries have already provided to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces.

In the last publicly available assessment more than 20 years ago, the Pentagon decided that this artillery shell had a "malfunction" of 6 percent. That is, at least four of the 72 submunitions carried by each projectile would remain unexploded across an area of about 22,500 square meters (about 4½ soccer fields).

"We are aware of reports from several decades ago indicating that certain 155mm DPICMs have higher deterioration rates," said a defense official, one of seven Pentagon, White House and military officials who discussed the delicate decision on condition of anonymity.

Now, as WP writes, the U.S. Defense Department is reassured that it has new estimates based on 2020 testing, with a munitions non-detachability rate no higher than 2.35%. Although this exceeds the 1 percent limit, officials are "carefully selecting" ammunition with a loss rate of 2.35 percent or lower for transfer to Ukraine, said Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder.

The defense spokesman added that details of the new assessments "are not subject to public disclosure," including details of how, when and where tests were conducted and whether they involved actual fire exercises or virtual simulations. Military guidelines state that the weapons cannot be fired during training because they are part of the military stockpile.


Journalists are writing that there is no provision to waive the 1% cap that Congress has set on the rates for the use of cluster munitions written into the Defense Department appropriation for the past seven years. According to a White House spokesman, U.S. leader Joe Biden will bypass this point and Congress will remove the ammunition from the existing defense stockpile. This would be done under an infrequently used provision of the Foreign Assistance Act that allows the president to provide aid, regardless of appropriations or restrictions on arms exports, if he determines it is in the vital national security interests of the United States.

It is noted that the Congressional Research Service's 2022 report to lawmakers states that there is "considerable disagreement in estimates of the failure rate" of cluster weapons in the U.S. arsenal. In addition, some manufacturers claimed 2 to 5 percent, while demining experts reported rates of 10 to 30 percent.

Nonproliferation experts said the Pentagon's estimate of 2.35% incapacitation likely refers to the aging of projectiles with upgraded fuses designed to improve their self-destruction. However, this is impossible to know without access to test data.

Proponents who warn against the use of cluster munitions say the claimed lower deterioration rates are the result of testing under idealized and unrealistic conditions that do not account for real-world scenarios. Army artillery manuals note that even the Army's own damage rate can increase depending on the angle of impact and the type of terrain on which they fall.

As reported by OBOZREVATEL, earlier the non-governmental human rights organization Human Rights Watch urged the US government not to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine. They said that allegedly the Ukrainian military "already used" such weapons, and it "led to the deaths of civilians." Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the President, criticized the human rights defenders, saying that they were trying to disrupt the supply of weapons to Ukraine in this way.

The day before it was said that the US Department of Defense continues considering the possibility of transferring cluster munitions from its military depots to Ukraine. In addition, there is no talk on obsolete types of shells.

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