Ukrainian troops have started using cluster munitions supplied by the US in their efforts to counter Russia, as confirmed by US officials. The effectiveness of the munitions on the battlefield is still being assessed. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby, stated that the munitions are being used appropriately and are proving to be impactful against Russia’s defensive formations. The US had announced on July 8 that it would be sending these controversial munitions, which were delivered to Ukrainian forces about a week later.
Advantages and Risks of Cluster Munitions
Cluster munitions disperse bomblets over wide areas, enabling Ukrainian forces to target large concentrations of Russian forces and equipment with fewer rounds of ammunition. However, there is a risk that the bomblets may not explode on impact and can pose a long-term danger, similar to landmines. Notably, the UK, France, Germany, and other US allies have banned the use of cluster munitions, whereas the US and Ukraine have not signed the ban.
Purpose and Impact of US Support
The US decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine was primarily aimed at addressing potential ammunition shortages on the frontlines. The heavy artillery ammunition expenditure by Ukrainian forces on a daily basis could have posed sustainability challenges in the long run. Reports indicate that the US and Europe are working to provide Ukraine with a significant amount of ammunition to support their counteroffensive against Russia.
Russia’s Position on Cluster Munitions
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia possesses its own stockpile of cluster munitions and will consider using them if Ukraine uses such munitions against Russia. However, Russia has previously used cluster munitions in densely populated areas in Ukraine, despite international concerns and condemnation.
Overall, the use of cluster munitions by Ukrainian troops marks a significant development in their counteroffensive strategy against Russia, but it also raises concerns about the potential risks and long-term consequences associated with their deployment.