Ukrainian advances and the controversial use of Cluster Munitions


Ukrainian troops have made significant progress towards Mariupol, a crucial port city, marking their second major move in a fortnight. This advancement is part of Ukraine’s strategy to counter Russian forces. On August 16, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister, Hanna Maliar, confirmed the retaking of Urozhain village in Donetsk. Notably, this success was partly due to the deployment of cluster munitions provided by the US.

Since mid-July, Ukraine has been using these US-supplied cluster munitions against Russian defenses. While the US has praised their effectiveness, Russia has expressed concerns. President Vladimir Putin hinted at Russia’s ample stockpile of similar weapons, suggesting a potential retaliatory response. However, both the US and Ukraine seem to downplay the long-term consequences of using such weapons, despite historical evidence of their lingering dangers.

Cluster munitions, or cluster bombs, disperse multiple explosive sub-munitions over vast areas. These can be deployed from various platforms, including aircraft and artillery. Two primary concerns arise from their use: their inability to distinguish between military and civilian targets and their high failure rate. Unexploded bomblets can act like landmines, posing threats for years.

These weapons can make regions uninhabitable, with civilians living in perpetual fear. The US Department of Defense asserts that the cluster munitions supplied to Ukraine have a low failure rate. However, real combat conditions can differ from controlled tests. There are also reports of Ukraine deploying these weapons in populated Russian areas.

Human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch, have previously accused both nations of using cluster munitions. Both countries deny these allegations while pointing fingers at each other.

From a tactical perspective, cluster munitions offer significant advantages, especially in breaking entrenched positions. The US has supplied Ukraine with vast amounts of traditional munitions, but the appeal of cluster munitions, which can target more areas with fewer rounds, is evident.

However, the global community has recognized their dangers. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, effective since August 2010, seeks to ban their use and production. While 123 states have joined, major powers like the US, Russia, and Ukraine haven’t.

In conclusion, the Russia-Ukraine conflict’s use of cluster munitions underscores the urgent need for a global ban. The long-term hazards of these weapons far outweigh short-term military gains. Major nations should prioritize signing the treaty to prevent future harm to innocent civilians.


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