'We're not looking to start WW3': US defends decision to send controversial weapon banned in 100 countries to Ukraine

7 July 2023, 19:47 | Updated: 7 July 2023, 20:01

Ukraine had been asking for cluster munitions for some time
Ukraine had been asking for cluster munitions for some time. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The US government has announced it plans to send controversial cluster munitions to Ukraine as the war with Russia wages on.

The White House confirmed on Friday that the decision had been pushed back for as long as possible due to the risk the weapons pose to civilians.

Ukraine has been asking the US for the weapons - which are banned in more than 100 countries - for some time as it suffers from a shortage of ammunition.

The weapons contain multiple explosive bomblets that are known as submunitions.

"Ukraine has committed to post-conflict demining efforts to mitigate any potential harm to civilians and this will be necessary regardless of whether the United States provides these munitions or not because of Russia's widespread use of cluster munitions," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday.

The weapons package is believed to be worth around $800m.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden. Picture: Getty

"Ukraine would not be using these munitions in some foreign land. This is their country they're defending."

He added: "We are not looking to start World War Three."

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The US had previously been cautious to grant Ukrainian wishes as the weapons have the potential to kill indiscriminately, putting civilians at risk.

The weapons were first developed during the Second World War.

Unexploded bomblets have the potential to live in the ground for several years and can detonate unexpectedly.

According to the Pentagon, Russia has already used cluster bombs in the Ukraine War.

They said Russia has experienced high failure rates with the weapons.

The UN says Ukraine has also used the weapons, which it denies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Picture: Getty

Colin H. Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, said: "We will be able to provide Ukraine with extra artillerly immediately.

"Russia has been using cluster munitions since the start of the war.

"The munitions we will provide Ukriane will have a dud rate of below 2.35%.

"We are working with Ukraine to reduce the risks associated with these weapons."

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