U.S. to send cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of new $800 million security package

U.S. to send cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of new $800 million security package

The Biden administration said Friday it has agreed to ship cluster munitions to Ukraine that are designed to destroy armored vehicles and kill military personnel. 

The 155mm Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions artillery rounds will be included in the United States’ latest $800 million security assistance package to Ukraine.  

Human rights groups have condemned the use of cluster rounds and more than 100 countries have banned their use, though the U.S., Russia and Ukraine did not sign that agreement. The munitions burst mid-flight, scattering explosive submunitions over a wide area.

Kyiv has assured the White House that its forces will not use the controversial munitions in areas where civilians are likely to encounter them, Pentagon officials said Friday.

“The Ukrainian government has offered us assurances in writing on the responsible use of DPICMs,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters at the Pentagon. “They will not use them in civilian-populated environments and will record where they fire them. That will simplify future de-mining efforts.”

Russia has used “tens of millions” of submunitions across Ukraine since it invaded in February 2022. 

“Russia has been using cluster munitions indiscriminately since the start of this war to attack Ukraine. By contrast, Ukraine is seeking DPICM rounds in order to defend its own sovereign territory,” Mr. Kahl said.

Pentagon officials would not say how many DPICM rounds would be sent to Ukraine but said it would be enough to “bridge the gap” until NATO allies can produce a sufficient number of standard artillery ammunition to ensure a steady supply. 

Opponents of cluster munitions say they often leave unexploded ordnance behind once the fighting is over. It puts civilians who might encounter them at risk. The DPICM rounds that the U.S. will provide Ukraine will have a failure rate of less than 2.35%, Mr. Kahl said.

“Russia has been using cluster munitions across Ukraine with a ‘dud rate’ of between 30-40%,” Mr. Kahl said. 

On Friday, top Republican lawmakers said a DPICM round is not a “golden bullet” but the munitions will help Ukraine target Russian forces more efficiently as they continue with their counteroffensive operations. They said the Biden administration should also send Kyiv other weapons Ukraine has long sought, such as the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and F-16 fighter jets.

“This administration’s misguided fear of escalation in providing critical weapon systems — from Stingers to HIMARS to Abrams tanks and now to DPICMs — has only served to prolong the war, embolden [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, cost Ukrainian lives, and indeed, put the entire Ukrainian counteroffensive at risk of failure,” according to a statement from Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Also included the $800 million drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories are 31 155mm howitzers, 32 Bradley fighting vehicles; 32 Stryker armored personnel carriers, and more munitions for the Patriot air defense systems, anti-armor missiles and demolitions for clearing obstacles.

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