Cluster Munitions, Banned in Over 100 Countries, to be used by Ukraine

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Used cluster munitions stacked together (Image Credit: Pierre Crom)

The Russia-Ukraine war has continued for over a year, with either side unable to make significant progress. However, the recent addition of cluster munitions to Ukraine may represent a major change of tide in this war. 

Ukraine has recently received cluster bombs from the United States, a weapon that is banned in over 100 countries due to their deadly and indiscriminate potential. Cluster munitions essentially work by opening up in the air and releasing smaller explosives. Most of the bombs explode when they hit the ground, but some can become lodged into the ground, becoming a landmine that could result in unintentional civilian injuries or deaths. Concerns over the possibility of dud cluster munitions have also arisen, with critics warning that defective cluster munitions could lead to civilians and soldiers being killed after stepping on unexploded cluster munitions. 

Ukrainian officials have argued that the potential use of cluster munitions is justified in the wake of Russia’s mining on seized land. Valeryi Shershen, a spokesman for one of Ukraine’s military districts, has argued on the importance of cluster munitions, stating,

“This will further demotivate Russian occupying forces and fundamentally change things in favor of the Ukrainian armed forces.” 

Russia has responded to the additions of cluster bombs through threats, with the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warning that Russia could deploy similar weapons if faced.

“Russia, realizing the threat that such ammunition poses to the civilian population, has refrained and is refraining from using them in a special operation.”

The minister said, along with warning,

“If the United States supplies cluster munitions to Ukraine, the Russian Armed Forces will be forced to use similar weapons against the Armed Forces of Ukraine as a response.”

There have already been multiple accusations from both Russia and Ukraine, claiming that the other side has already used cluster munitions in this war. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reports in actuality, both Russia and Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine) have already used cluster munitions. 

Reactions from other countries have been somewhat negative. Countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom have all expressed disapproval and concern for the usage of such weapons. Canada, in particular, has publicly denounced the use of cluster munitions. 

“Canada was one of the countries that led on the banning of cluster munitions around the world, and we will continue to stand very strongly that they should not be used.”

Said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reporters. Concerns about the threat of escalation have also been brought up. Former Canadian foreign affairs minister who also serves as World Refugee and Migration Council chair, Lloyd Axworthy, brought up the danger of escalation, stating,

“There’s an old saying that once you unleash the dogs of war, you’re never sure where they’re going to run to. Well, I think we’ve unleashed this whole issue … using these terrible weapons.”

In other words, the usage of cluster munitions in Ukraine could lead to Russia retaliating with more cluster munitions, or even more deadly and indiscriminate banned weapons, that would escalate the conflict as a whole. 

Written by Kevin Han

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