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Business News/ News / World/  What are cluster bombs, US sending to Ukraine and why over 100 countries have banned it? Explained
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What are cluster bombs, US sending to Ukraine and why over 100 countries have banned it? Explained

The decision by the US to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs has caused concern among key US allies, such as Italy, Spain, Germany, and the UK. Cluster bombs have been banned by over 100 countries due to the significant risk they pose to civilian populations.

President Joe Biden confirmed the decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of a military aid package worth $800 million. (Bloomberg)Premium
President Joe Biden confirmed the decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of a military aid package worth $800 million. (Bloomberg)

The decision by the United States to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs has caused concern among key US allies. Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK are among the NATO members who have expressed opposition to the use of these weapons, BBC News has cited. 

Cluster bombs have been banned by over 100 countries due to the significant risk they pose to civilian populations. These munitions release smaller bomblets that have a high failure rate, leaving unexploded remnants that can remain dangerous for years and detonate unpredictably, BBC News cited. While the UK complies, the US claims they are necessary as Ukraine's weapon stocks are diminishing.

President Joe Biden confirmed the decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of a military aid package worth $800 million. He acknowledged the difficulty of the decision but emphasised Ukraine's need for ammunition. He also stated that he had discussed the matter with allies beforehand.

“You can feel the allies are all very uncomfortable with this," Peter Ricketts, who served as the UK’s first national security adviser, told Sky News on Sunday. “It is a hard choice of the kind that countries have to make in wartime. I am uncomfortable with it, yes I wish it wasn’t being done, but I think we can understand why they are doing it."

What is a cluster bomb?

A cluster bomb is a type of weapon that is designed to disperse smaller bombs over a large area. They are also known as cluster munitions, with the smaller bombs referred to as submunitions or bomblets, CBC News said. 

Cluster bombs, employed in World War II, can be dropped from air or fired from ground/sea, dispersing dozens or hundreds of bomblets across a large area. These explosions pose a grave threat to anyone in the vicinity, causing death or severe injuries. 

Furthermore, some bomblets fail to detonate immediately, leaving behind unexploded ordnance that can harm or kill people for years to come. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the submunition failure rate — referred to as the "dud rate" — has varied from 10% to 40% in recent conflicts.

"Large-scale use of these weapons has resulted in countries and regions being infested with tens of thousands, and sometimes millions, of unexploded and highly unstable submunitions," the organisation said, as qouted by CBC News.

Also unexploded bomblets can resemble toys, posing a grave risk to children who might handle them and suffer injuries or fatalities.

Why is Ukraine asking for them?

Ukraine's forces are running desperately low on artillery shells, largely because, like the Russians, they use them up at an extraordinarily high rate and Ukraine's Western allies cannot replace them at the speed they are needed, BBC News said and added “In the largely static, grinding battlefronts of southern and eastern Ukraine, artillery has become a key weapon."

Due to a shortage of artillery shells, Ukraine has requested the US to replenish their cluster munitions supply to target Russian infantry in defensive trenches. This decision has sparked a six-month-long debate in Washington, as it is met with opposition from many Democrats and human rights advocates.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sanchari Ghosh
Sanchari Ghosh is a Chief Content Producer with LiveMint. She covers news, human interest, epidemiology and personal finance stories
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Published: 10 Jul 2023, 08:06 AM IST
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