Return to Recent Articles menu

Cluster bombs for Ukraine

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

11 July 2023

Cluster bomb capsule.

The USA has announced that it will supply cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of its support for the war against Russia.  On one level the move is not surprising, on another it reveals some fundamental truths about the course of the war and US intentions.  They are banned by international treaty, one which has not been signed by Russia or Ukraine, and of course, neither has it been signed by the US.  The US has always dragged its feet on the question of the banning of certain types of weapons.

Cluster bombs, are simply put a bombs that break up into smaller components leaving small explosive devices scattered over a large area of land.  They are a

…conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions…
These weapons are designed for use against massed formations of troops and armor or broad targets, such as airfields. Cluster submunitions, however, sometimes fail to explode on impact and can kill or maim civilians who later come into contact with them. These unexploded submunitions may remain dangerous for decades.(1)
They have all the potential to leave Ukraine like the US left Cambodia and Laos in the 1970s.  According to Cluster Munition Monitor 23,082 casualties were confirmed by the year 2021, with around 18,426 resulting from unexploded munitions.  Biden has a long and chequered history on the use of the weapons.  His ambassador to the UN had condemned their use by Russia stating they had no legitimate place on the battle field, though two days later the State Department censored the official transcript of her intervention to remove the phrase. Biden had criticised the use of and access to such weapons in the past. (2)

Whilst it is all very interesting and even of humanitarian concern that the US would wish to turn Ukraine in another Laos and Cambodia, though unlike Kissinger they will be telling no lies about their bombs, it is of greater interest what it says about the war.  Biden’s official reason is that Ukraine is running out of munitions and they need the cluster bombs.  We have been told from the word go that this war is winnable, i.e. that Ukraine can win it.  This of course ignores that Ukraine is not the only warring party fighting Russia, NATO is part of the war, though it is not putting many boots on the ground, though it clearly has had a hand in some operations.  Every week we hear announcements that the counter offensive will smash Russia, almost there, one more push, the Russians have run out of weapons, their army is demoralised and deserting etc.  Now it turns out that Ukraine needs these weapons or else.  These weapons are very useful in halting advances by your enemy, they are not as necessary in situations where your enemy is routed, unless you think it may regroup and retake the initiative.  Ireland has wholeheartedly supported the war in Ukraine, confirming to those who wish to see that it is not a neutral country.  It has had little to say on the issue of these banned weapons.

They will make parts of Ukraine uninhabitable and make agriculture a dangerous profession as sowing and reaping become potentially life-threatening activities.  If Biden will go to these lengths, what else will he do.  Despite the media talking about Putin’s willingness to use nuclear weapons, it really has to be asked whether the US is willing to go that far as well. What then of the former leftists running round chanting victory for NATO, or as they would put it for Ukraine?  None of them have said much either on Biden’s choice of weaponry.  Is there no length to which the US will go that marks a turning point for them?  The answer is no.  Should Biden propose facilitating large scale rocket attacks on Moscow they are as likely to cheer them on as to remain silent.  What they will not do, ever, is oppose the escalation in the war.  Modern day Kautskys.


(1) See

(2) See

Return to top of page