Monday 10 July 2023

Democrats Express Reservations About Biden Decision To Send Cluster Bombs To Ukraine

 Two congressional Democrats expressed reservations on the recent decision from the Biden administration to send cluster bombs to Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with Russia. 

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) criticized the move on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, saying the weapons “should never be used.” Similarly, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told Fox News’s Shannon Bream that he has “real qualms” about the decision, which Biden said was “very difficult” for him to make. 

“Once you see what takes place, we know what takes place in terms of cluster bombs being very dangerous to civilians,” Lee told host Jake Tapper. “They don’t always immediately explode. Children can step on them. That’s a line we should not cross.”

Lee, who announced her run for the Senate in February to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein, added that she believes the Biden administration is doing a “good job” regarding the war in Ukraine, but insisted the decision to send cluster munitions is the wrong one. 

“And so I’m hoping that the administration would reconsider this because these are very dangerous bombs,” Lee said. “They’re dangerous weapons. And this is a line that I don’t believe we should cross.”

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Servies Committee, expressed similar reservations, telling Bream that he was concerned about the administration’s decision. The Virginia Democrat pointed to a 2008 convention where 123 countries, not including the United States, Russia, or Ukraine, pledged not to use cluster bombs in conflicts, known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions. 

“There is an international convention against [the] use of these cluster munitions that dates back to 2008,” Kaine told Bream. “And the reason the prohibition was put in place, as you have described, is that these are kinds of munitions that can lead to some downstream risks to civilians.”

Kaine told Bream that he has “some real qualms” about the decision because “it could give a green light to other nations to do something different as well.” Kaine insisted the White House ensured Ukraine would not use the weapons against civilians. 

Despite the criticism, John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, defended the decision Sunday, saying the White House is “mindful” of the concerns, but insisted they “provide a useful battlefield capability.” 

On Friday, the White House announced that cluster bombs would be included in an $800 million weapons package to Ukraine. This was despite American law that prohibits the use, production, and transfer of cluster munitions that have a failure rate of more than 1%, which Biden was able to bypass through a rarely-used provision of the Foreign Assistance Act, The Daily Wire previously reported.

When they explode, cluster bombs release smaller “bomblets” that spread over a wide area, though some can fail to detonate, which can be a danger for years after a war ends, Reuters notes

“There’s definitely a lot of tactical risks in employing these types of munitions. It limits your ability to maneuver, and limits your ability to maneuver quickly, because you have to be clearing a bunch of UXO [unexploded ordnance]” a former U.S. Army artillery officer told The Washington Post. 

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