Two leading GOP congressmen renewed calls for the White House to send cluster bombs to Ukraine. Representative Mike Rogers (R-MS) claimed the US has 3 million rounds of the controversial munitions in stock that will have to be destroyed if they are not sent to Kiev.
Rogers, head of the House Armed Services Committee, issued the demand during a committee hearing on Wednesday. “The administration [is] not giving Ukraine the weapons it needs to win. Chief among them is cluster munitions,“ he said.
Typically intended for use against personnel and light vehicles, cluster bombs carry smaller explosive submunitions which are released in flight and scattered across a target area. However, the bomblets often fail to detonate and remain on the ground as ‘duds,’ causing countless civilian deaths in former warzones, sometimes even decades into the future. After the Vietnam War, as many as 20 million bomblets remained unexploded in Laos. Thousands of children have been killed and injured when stumbling upon the live submunitions.
The United States has a large inventory of 155-millimeter Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) left over from the Cold War, with many entering service in the 1970s and 80s. While the aging cluster weapons are no longer used by US forces, Pentagon officials have claimed they could still serve a purpose in the hands of Ukrainian troops.
“It’s very effective against mixed targets, of personnel and equipment, especially when those targets are gathered into dense formations,“ Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the commander for US operations in Europe, said at Wednesday’s hearing. “It is happening in Bakhmut and it happens on most battlefields when one force goes into the offense. As a strictly military matter, it is a useful and very effective munition.“
More than 120 nations have agreed to ban such weapons under the international Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty which Washington, Moscow and Kiev have each refused to sign. Though a 2009 US law prohibited exports of cluster bombs with a ‘dud’ rate of more than 1% – which applies to most of the US stockpile – President Joe Biden can waive that restriction at any time.
Kiev has made several requests for US cluster munitions since Moscow’s invasion last year, and both Ukraine and Russia are reported to have deployed the bombs throughout the conflict. According to Foreign Policy, Turkey supplied some of its own US-designed DPICMs to the Ukrainian military last November, after Washington denied Kiev’s initial calls for the weapon.
Rogers went on to argue that providing cluster bombs to Ukraine could actually be a cost-saving measure for the government and a way to dispose of the Cold War-era explosives. “The US military has over 3 million cluster munitions that can be fired by 155mm Howitzers in Ukraine’s possession,“ he said. “We are going to spend millions of dollars destroying them if we don’t use them and Russia is using them right now against the Ukrainians.“
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) backed Rogers’ proposal. “Those should be provided,“ he argued, voicing hopes that “every effort will be made to look into providing the cluster bombs. We have 2 million available right now, it’s inconceivable that we don’t do more.“
Wilson is also preparing to introduce a bipartisan resolution which “affirms that it is the policy of the United States to see Ukraine victorious against the invasion and restored to its internationally recognized 1991 borders,“ which would include the Russian-occupied Donbass, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions as well as Crimea. Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen is set to co-sponsor the measure.
The comments from Rogers and Wilson come amid a greater push in Congress to provide Kiev with cluster weapons. Last month, Rogers signed a letter with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which called on the White House to send Ukraine cluster bombs, including DPICMs.