The top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee warned Friday that it was a “mistake” for President Biden to green light sending controversial weapons known as cluster munitions to Ukraine.
“The decision by the Biden administration to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine is unnecessary and a terrible mistake,” Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said in a statement.
“The legacy of cluster bombs is misery, death, and expensive cleanup generations after their use. The U.S. pays tens of millions of dollars annually to remove cluster munitions in Laos from the Vietnam era as these remnants of war continue to kill and maim civilians.”
The Biden administration announced that its latest aid package to Ukraine would include cluster munitions, bombs that release smaller explosives across a wide area when detonated. Cluster-type bombs have been banned by more than 100 countries because they are known to kill or maim civilians – in many cases, when dud submunitions fall to the ground without exploding but are unexpectedly detonated later, even years after they were dropped.
Both Russia and Ukraine have used cluster munitions since Moscow first launched its attack in February 2022. White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan acknowledged on Friday that cluster munitions do pose a risk to civilians but said the danger to their lives would be higher if Kyiv did not have enough weapons to fight off Russia’s troops. The “dud rate” for munitions the Pentagon is sending to Ukraine is below 3%.
But McCollum called on the U.S. to have nothing to do with the controversial weapons altogether.
“As a strong supporter of the Biden administration’s policy in Ukraine, I must state in the strongest possible terms my absolute opposition to the U.S. transferring cluster munitions,” she said. “These weapons should be eliminated from our stockpiles, not dumped in Ukraine.”
The decision did, however, earn Biden rare praise across the aisle from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
“For Ukrainian forces to defeat Putin’s invasion, Ukraine needs at least equal access to the weapons Russia already uses against them, like cluster munitions,” Cotton said. “Providing this new capability is the right decision—even if it took too long—and is one I’ve long supported.”
But another Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said she was “alarmed” that Biden was “considering sending cluster bombs to Ukraine.”
“Cluster bombs work by scattering tiny ‘bomblets’ over a wide area. Many of these bomblets don’t explode—but remain a threat to civilians for decades,” Lee said on Twitter.
“The Ukrainian people are engaged in a just struggle for their rights, freedom and humanity. The US and Ukraine don’t need to stoop to Putin’s level.”