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Ukraine war, NATO summit in Vilnius

Europe

Ukraine war, NATO summit in Vilnius

The White House sought to make clear that US President Joe Biden’s controversial decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine was a “temporary” measure, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan telling reporters that it will be a matter of “months” as Ukraine bridges a munitions gap.

“The unitary rounds that we’ve been providing and that we’ve been getting other allies and partners to provide to Ukraine, those stockpiles are running low,” Sullivan said.

He continued, “We were not prepared to leave Ukraine defenseless, period. So for us, when it came down to the choice, our choice was, despite the difficulty, despite the challenges, despite the risks of civilian harm associated with cluster munitions, the risk to civilian harm of leaving Ukraine without the ammo it needed was, from our perspective, greater,” Sullivan said.

Biden told News Portal Space’s Fareed Zaharia Friday that he took the “difficult decision” to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions because “the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition” needed to sustain its counteroffensive against Russia.

Sullivan added that the US views the provision of cluster munitions as “temporary” until more unitary rounds can be produced.

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“We view that as temporary because many months ago, we began the intensive process of ramping up our unitary round production. Once it hits a level where unitary round production can satisfy Ukraine’s needs, then there will be no need to continue giving cluster munitions,” he said, declining to provide a timeline due to questions of usage rates and the defense industrial base hitting its production marks.

Pressed again on timing, he said, “It’s months, but the question is, how many?”

Why are cluster munitions controversial?: Cluster munitions are canisters that carry tens to hundreds of smaller bomblets. The canisters break open at a prescribed height, depending upon the area of the intended target, and the bomblets inside are dispersed over that area.

Because bomblets fall over a wide area, they can endanger non-combatants.

Over 100 countries, including the UK, France and Germany, have outlawed the munitions under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but the US and Ukraine are not signatories to the ban.

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