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President claims Zelensky NEEDS cluster munitions as he is ‘running out of ammunition’

Biden claims it was ‘difficult’ decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine: President claims Zelensky NEEDS them as he is ‘running out of ammunition’ in U-turn after White House said it would spark World War Three

  • National security advisor Jake Sullivan said making the decision to send Kiev the bombs was ‘not easy’ but ‘we will not leave Ukraine defenseless’
  • ‘We recognize that cluster munitions create a risk to civilians which is why we have deferred decision as much as we could,’ he said

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President Joe Biden defended his turnaround decision to provide deadly cluster munitions to Ukraine – and said flatly in an interview that Ukraine was ‘running out’ of ammunition.

The president justified the decision both in a public appearance and in a cable interview, where he explained why he decided to transfer the weapons, which are effective on the battlefield but can leave behind unexploded ordinance which can maim civilians years after they are launched. 

‘It was a very difficult decision on my part,’ he told CNN Friday, while hinting at the internal debate.

‘And by the way, I discussed this with our allies, I discussed this with our friends up on the Hill,’ he said. Then he added: ‘The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.’

'The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition,' President Joe Biden said Friday, as he justified a U.S. turnaround in providing cluster munitions to Ukraine in its effort to turn back Russia's invasion

His comments aired after national security advisor Jake Sullivan described the transfer as a ‘bridge’ until the U.S. was able to crank up production of artillery shells to meet battlefield needs and replenish depleted U.S. supplies.

Biden described the transfer as a finite effort during a ‘transition period,’ rather than as a wholesale change in U.S. policy. He was faced with trying to get around his administration’s denunciation of Russia’s use of the bombs on civilian areas amid its brutal war on Ukraine.

‘This is a war relating to munitions. And they’re running out of that ammunition, and we’re low on it,’ Biden said. 

‘And so, what I finally did, I took the recommendation of the Defense Department to – not permanently – but to allow for this transition period, while we get more 155 weapons (155mm caliber shells), these shells, for the Ukrainians,’ Biden said.

He made a similar comment at the end of remarks on health care Friday, when asked why the U.S. was providing them now.

‘They’ve run out of ammunition,’ Biden said, using even starker language. Some Ukrainian military members have said units have had to conserve ammunition and avoid firing to preserve supplies. 

Cluster munitions release ‘bomblets’ in the air which are dispersed over a wide area, making them an effective way to target opposing forces.

He acknowledged the international effort to ban the munitions, with more than 100 countries outlawing them, although the U.S. is not a signatory to a pan. Nor is Ukraine or Russia. 

He also spoke about the challenges facing the Ukrainians in their renewed offensive, now that Russian forces have dug into their positions as Ukraine seeks to reclaim territory. 

‘They’re trying to get through those trenches and stop those tanks from rolling. But it was not an easy decision,’ Biden told the network. ‘We’re not signatories to that agreement, but it took me a while to be convinced to do it.

‘But the main thing is they either have the weapons to stop the Russians now – keep them from stopping the Ukrainian offensive through these areas – or they don’t. And I think they needed them.’

The Ukrainian military has been slowly regaining territory and liberating some villages from Russian control, but not at the lightning pace of some of last year’s offensives. 

But the war has taken a toll on stockpiles.

‘The Ukrainians have been burning through in one month what the United States produces in an entire year,’ Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told NPR this spring.

The Biden administration has done a full 180 on cluster munitions – from last year calling their use in the Russia-Ukraine conflict a ‘war crime‘ to this year insisting they are essential to Ukraine‘s defenses. 

White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan took to the podium in the press briefing room Friday to defend the decision. 

He said making the decision to send Kiev the bombs was ‘not easy’ but ‘we will not leave Ukraine defenseless.’

‘We recognize that cluster munitions create a risk to civilians which is why we have deferred decision as much as we could,’ he said. 

U.S. law bans the transfer of cluster munitions that have more than a one percent ‘dud’ rate – or fail to go off more than one percent of the time. Such bombs that don’t go off immediately can create land mines and explode at a later date and harm civilians. 

But Sullivan confirmed President Biden had signed a waiver allowing a transfer of such weapons with a higher dud rate – but said the rate would be ‘not higher than 2.5 percent.’ 

This aerial picture taken on December 7, 2022 shows an expert of the prosecutor's office examining collected remnants of shells and missiles used by the Russian army to attack the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

The US has decided to send controversial cluster munitions to Ukraine in aid of its counteroffensive against Russian forces

‘Russia has been using cluster munitions since the start of this work to attack Ukraine. Russia has been using cluster munitions with high dud or failure rates of between 30 and 40 percent,’ Sullivan told reporters. 

He said regions where the bombs would be used would already need to be cleared of mines once the war is over.  

‘Russia has already spread tens of millions of these bomblets across Ukrainian territory,’ he went on. ‘So we have to ask ourselves is: Is Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions, on that same land, actually that much of an addition of civilian harm given that that area is going to have to be de mined regardless?’ 

The Biden administration has been weighing up a decision on sending the munitions since December, and on Friday announced  it will send thousands of them as part of a new military aid package worth $800million.

The countries shown in white have not signed the convention banning the production and use of cluster munitions - bombs which explode and disperse bomblets, which frequently injure and kill civilians

Cluster munitions (pictured) are prohibited in more than 100 countries after they ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was adopted in Dublin, Ireland in May 2008

Cluster munitions explode and disperse a series of smaller bombs over a wide area, often killing civilians. More than 120 nations have signed a 15-year-old treaty banning their use, but Ukraine and Russia have both deployed them – and Ukraine’s supplies of all types of ammunition are dwindling. 

Sullivan told reporters the U.S. had received ‘written assurance’ the cluster bombs would be used by Ukraine in a ‘very careful way’ – and said it was in Ukraine’s own self interest not to target areas where civilians could be harmed. 

But the Kremlin is likely to cry hypocrisy over the move and ramp up its own use of cluster munitions. 

‘Russia is likely to take this as an invitation to ramp up its own use of these weapons,’  Dr. Mark Berlin, a professor at Marquette University who specializes in international law, war crimes and human rights, told DailyMail.com.

‘It is also likely to provide grounds for Russia to claim hypocrisy in response to criticisms about its own use, which will help it muddy the waters regarding who is responsible for worse behavior in the conflict,’ he said. 

‘As long as the US continues to export cluster bombs, especially in contradiction to its own stated policies, it undermines the moral power of US and international criticism against the use by countries like Russia. 

‘The move may also have political costs for Biden. Human rights groups have campaigned to prohibit and delegitimize these weapons for decades, and they will not be happy about this decision, which undermines that cause.’

The move has already drawn the ire of human rights groups.

‘The USA’s plan to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine is a retrograde step, which undermines the considerable advances made by the international community in its attempts to protect civilians,’ Amnesty International said in a statement. 

‘Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate weapons which have caused untold harm to civilians across the world – in some cases decades after conflicts have ended.’

It’s drew condemnation and applause from both sides of the aisle in Congress. 

A group of House and Senate Republican committee leaders praised Biden’s new move but went after him for taking too long.  

‘While no weapons system is a proverbial golden bullet, DPICMs will help fill a key gap for Ukraine’s military and will allow the Ukrainian Armed Forces to target and eliminate Russian forces more efficiently, including in fortified positions on the battlefield. Providing DPICMs will also decrease the strain on America’s stockpile of unitary warheads,’ said House Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch, and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker. 

‘This administration’s misguided fear of escalation in providing critical weapon systems – from Stingers to HIMARS to Abrams tanks and now to DPICMs – has only served to prolong the war.’

More isolationist-minded House Republicans equated the move to launching World War III. 

‘Instead of focusing on a peaceful solution, Biden is sending us into WWIII,’ Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., wrote on Twitter. 

‘Maybe find out who left cocaine in the West Wing before starting WWIII?’ added Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz. 

Rep. Barbara Lee, a progressive Democrat from California, criticized the move. 

‘I am alarmed to hear [Biden] is considering sending cluster bombs to Ukraine. Many people are unaware of these dangerous weapons,’ she said, linking to a Human Rights Watch report about civilian deaths in Ukraine due to cluster munitions. 

‘The Ukrainian people are engaged in a just struggle for their rights, freedom and humanity. The US and Ukraine don’t need to stoop to Putin’s level.’

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., an Air Force Veteran who serves on the Armed Services and Intel Committees, also condemned the move. 

‘I believe a victory for Ukraine is an essential victory for democracies across the globe, but that victory cannot come at the expense of our American values and thus democracy itself. Cluster munitions are indiscriminate, and I strongly oppose providing these weapons to Ukraine,’ she said in a statement. 

Ukrainian servicemen fire with a tank towards Russian troops near a front line in Kharkiv on Thursday

A woman looks at a missile casing in the Kharkiv oblast

A damaged apartment building in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, seen on Thursday

A woman is seen in Kharkiv on Thursday looking at the remains of her destroyed building

In the 1980s, the Russians made heavy use of cluster bombs during their 10-year invasion of Afghanistan. As a result of decades of war, the Afghan countryside remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. 

The United States has used cluster munitions in every major war since Korea, but no new ones are believed to have been produced for years.

The U.S. last used its cluster munitions in battle in Iraq in 2003, and decided not to continue using them as the conflict shifted to more urban environments with more dense civilian populations. 

There is precedent to the U.S. providing cluster munitions to foreign powers – since 2008, Washington has exported cluster munitions to at least India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the UAE. 

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