Blurred lines – on US’s delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine

Source: The post is based on the article “Blurred lines” published in “The Hindu ” on 10th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – International Relations (IR)

News: The Biden administration recently decided to send cluster munitions to Ukraine in the wake of the ongoing Russian invasion. It illustrates both the difficulties faced by Kyiv and its western allies in the protracted war, and the U.S.’s willingness to intensify the conflict.

About Convention on Cluster Munitions

Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty, which was adopted by more than 100 countries on May 30, 2008, prohibited the manufacture, transfer, and use of cluster munitions. It entered into force on Aug. 1, 2010.

Is the U.S. contradicting its own criticisms of war crimes?

Even though the U.S. has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, it has previously criticized Russia for using such munitions in the conflict, labeling it as war crimes. Yet, the U.S.’s change of stance, as part of its 42nd aid package to Ukraine, underlines the pressures Ukraine is enduring on the battlefield.

What are the factors behind this US’s Decision?

Ukraine’s dependency on the West for resources like artillery shells and ammunition stands in stark contrast to Russia’s undisturbed weapon supply. This discrepancy strains the Western reserves, leaving Ukraine in a disadvantageous position.

Initially, it was assumed that Ukraine’s swift victories would pressure Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. But, the strong defensive fortifications by the Russians along the front line present formidable obstacles. Ukraine’s minor territorial gains in the southeast came at high costs. Also, their aim of cutting off Putin’s land bridge in Zaporizhzhia remains unfulfilled.

This challenging reality led to the U.S.’s “difficult decision” of sending cluster munitions. Despite President Biden justifying it as aiding Ukraine’s self-defence, the decision to send these potentially civilian-targeting weapons to the battlefield blurs moral lines.

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