Delivery of cluster bombs to Ukraine – a dangerous escalation

Lhis decision, Joe Biden assures, was ” very difficult ” take. By announcing the addition of cluster bombs to its new military aid to Kiev, Washington has actually taken an ethical step. The principle of these bombs is to disperse tens or hundreds of lethal anti-personnel or anti-tank devices over a given territory. Remarkably effective on the battlefield, cluster bombs have one major flaw. When they don’t explode completely on impact, they permanently infect target areas, affecting civilian populations indiscriminately.

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These devastations have been perfectly documented, and many countries even rightly decided, in 2008, to refrain from using them. This is especially the case for the vast majority of European countries that support Kiev, even militarily. Others, such as Russia, China, India or the United States, have refused to take this step.

Pentagon doctrine continues to view cluster bombs as ” legitimate weapons whose military utility is evident ยป. The United States has just admitted that it wants to refine them, so that they no longer pose a threat once the conflict in which they were used is over. According to official data, to be taken with caution, between 2% and 6% of explosives remain active after the initial attack. Again according to the United States, these rates would be more than ten times higher on the Russian side.

A fight that can only be on equal terms

We can only deplore this escalation in principle. While one can coldly assume that Ukraine can only fight against Russia on equal terms, the dangers are obvious. As the war is being fought in Ukraine, Ukrainian civilians will be permanently exposed to munitions which will put a lasting burden on the reconstruction where they were used.

As the White House has admitted, the intensity of the ongoing conventional fighting has strained the American reserves, to the point of paving the way for these controversial deliveries to counterbalance the Russian superiority in artillery. This admission of weakness affects all of Ukraine’s Western allies. More than a year after the start of the Russian invasion, it shows that the latter is still struggling to fully take measures of the conflict.

In doing so, Washington is entering dangerous territory. Russia’s attitude during the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its people in 2013 attests to its complete lack of moral considerations when its interests are at stake: Moscow will never set limits, unlike the democracies, in the conduct of war.

This is also demonstrated by its strategy of systematic strikes against population centers, tested over the last quarter of a century in many theaters of operations. Today it plunges Ukraine into terror, day after day, night after night. This cynical strategy makes the debate on the indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions almost secondary. Vladimir Putin does not distinguish between military and civilian targets. When the latter are hit, he is consciously. This war of cowards against Ukrainian cities is the most obvious war crime of which the owner of the Kremlin is guilty.

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