US allies slam plan to send cluster bombs to Ukraine
Canada and the UK have become the latest Western nations to voice concern over US President Joe Biden’s decision to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine. Both countries have reaffirmed their commitment to a UN agreement banning the armaments and spoken against employing them in the current conflict with Russia.
“We do not support the use of cluster munitions,” the Canadian government told the national broadcaster CTV on Saturday. Ottawa is “committed to putting an end to the effects cluster munitions have on civilians – particularly children,” the statement read.
Separately, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told journalists that London also does not support employing cluster bombs. “The UK is a signatory to a convention that prohibits production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use,” he explained, adding that London would continue to support Ukraine through other means.
Canada said it was “fully compliant” with the UN convention banning the weapons, which was adopted in 2008. More than 110 nations have joined the agreement since then.
Cluster bombs carry smaller explosive submunitions that are released in flight and scattered across a target area, and are typically used against personnel and lightly armored vehicles. They also tend to leave behind undetonated ‘duds’ that can remain in former conflict zones for decades.
“People continue to die because of the use of this type of weapon,” Earl Turcotte, a veteran Canadian diplomat and a disarmament activist, told CTV. The former official, who led the Canadian delegation at the talks on the 2008 convention on cluster munitions, urged Ottawa to specifically “speak out” against the US decision.
“The point must be made clearly and forcefully that any immediate military benefit cluster munitions might afford would be nullified and far exceeded by their humanitarian impact on the Ukrainian citizenry over the longer term,” Turcotte said.
Washington, however, took a different position on Saturday. When asked about the potential harm to the civilian population the US-made bombs could inflict in Ukraine, a senior Pentagon official said that “the worst thing for civilians in Ukraine is for Russia to win.”
The move announced by the US this week has sparked concern among various nations, including some of America’s allies, as well as at the UN. On Friday, Germany reaffirmed its commitment to the UN treaty banning cluster munitions. Austria also warned that the West would be sending the wrong signal by delivering such ordnance to a conflict zone, while Spain said that it should not be used by Ukraine “under any circumstances.”
Moscow has condemned Washington’s decision as an act of “desperation” that would not affect its ongoing military campaign, but would have dire consequences for non-combatants. The US will “share full responsibility for the deaths… of both Russian and Ukrainian children,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated on Saturday.