Biden administration provides cluster bombs in $800 million military aid package to Ukraine
On July 7, U.S. President Biden announced that the Pentagon would provide Ukraine with cluster bombs in an $800 million military aid package. The new package also includes the Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles and ammunition for artillery weapons, such as the howitzer and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Biden’s decision came following the U.S. Department of Defense’s recommendation for the package, with funding for it coming from Pentagon stocks.
The decision to grant Ukraine cluster bombs is a controversial one as the munitions are notorious for causing civilian casualties. Cluster bombs, as described by AP News, are “weapons that open in the air, releasing submunitions, or ‘bomblets,’ that are dispersed over a large area and are intended to wreak destruction on multiple targets at once.” It’s reported that cluster bombs have a high rate of failure to explode, leaving around many unexploded bomblets which may later hurt civilians. However, U.S. officials assured that the explosion failure rate of the ordinance going to Ukraine is less than 3%.
Regardless of the controversy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed gratitude towards the Biden administration. Zelenskyy thanked Biden on Twitter for “a timely, broad and much-needed defense aid package” that will “bring Ukraine closer to victory over the enemy, and democracy to victory over the dictatorship.”
NATO outlines a clear path of future membership for Ukraine, Western allies pledge continuing support for Ukraine
The announcement of the $800 million military aid package came soon before the NATO summit, which took place in Lithuania on July 11. At the summit, President Biden and other NATO allies pledged their long-term military support to Ukraine. After the summit Biden stated, "the one thing Zelenskyy understands now is that whether or not he's in NATO now is not relevant, as long as he has the commitments," according to NPR.
President Zelenskyy had attended the summit to press NATO to provide a clear timeline for when his country could join the alliance. The Ukrainian President left the summit without a timeline after NATO denied definite membership for the near-feature as the allies wanted to avoid being dragged into a war. Due to Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine, “some NATO members, including the United States, feel that Ukraine cannot join the alliance until Russia ends its war there. Otherwise, NATO would be drawn directly into the war,” as reported by NPR.
Despite being denied near-future membership, Ukraine will still receive an expedited membership process in the long-term future, possibly after the war with Russia. According to the U.S. Defense Department, “the secretary general said the allies have agreed to a three-element package that will bring Ukraine closer to NATO.” This three-element package would include bringing Ukraine up to NATO standards, the creation of a new “NATO-Ukraine council” and the removal of the Membership Action Plan requirement for the eastern country.
Increased support from allies will strengthen Ukrainian counter-offensive
The announcement of the U.S. military aid package and commitments of support by NATO allies came just in time as the Ukrainian counter-offensive has reportedly stalled, going slower than Ukraine and its allies had hoped. According to the Wall Street Journal, the cause behind the sluggishness of the counter-offensive is due to “Ukraine’s lack of resources”. The slowness of the Ukrainian counter-offensive was a key reason for the Defense Department’s decision to send a new military aid package. Reiterating the Defense Department’s decision, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl stated to AP News: “Things are going a little slower than some had hoped…So this is to make sure that the Ukrainians have the confidence that they have what they need. But frankly, also that the Russians know that the Ukrainians are going to stay in the game.”
Combined with the new commitments made by NATO allies to Ukraine, the defending country can expect more long-term military aid and support to assist with the critical counter-offensive. Yet, only time will tell whether or not Ukraine will be able to utilize the incoming supplies effectively. However, despite the reported lack of resources Ukraine currently suffers, the counter-offensive has already taken back precious inches of Ukrainian land from their Russian invaders.
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