White House rejects cluster bomb criticism

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US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan dismissed allegations that Washington would lose “moral authority” if it provided controversial cluster munitions to Ukraine for use against Russian forces.

In an interview with NBC News on Sunday, Sullivan addressed the subject, defending President Joe Biden’s decision earlier this month to send Kiev weaponry that the White House had previously labeled as criminal when they were reportedly deployed by Russia. Although cluster bombs are prohibited by an international treaty signed by more than 100 countries, Sullivan claims that neither the United States nor Ukraine have ever signed the treaty.

“Our moral authority and Ukraine’s moral authority in this conflict stems from the fact that we are supporting a country under brutal, vicious attack by its neighbor, with missiles and bombs raining down on its cities, killing civilians and destroying schools, churches, and hospitals,” Sullivan told NBC host Chuck Todd. “And I find it questionable that providing Ukraine with a weapon so that they can defend their homeland and protect their civilians is somehow a challenge to our moral authority.”

Todd noted that Washington had attempted to “rhetorically lead the world in trying to get rid of these barbaric weapons, and then here we are now still going into our stockpile and giving them to an ally.” Despite opposition from the United Kingdom, Canada, and other NATO partners, Sullivan claimed that the situation justified Biden’s decision to deliver cluster munitions to Kiev.

“I would say that we are stepping up to give Ukraine what it needs in order to not be defenseless in the face of a Russian onslaught,” the security adviser stated. “We are simply not going to leave Ukraine defenseless.”

In a CNN interview earlier this month, Biden suggested that because the US and Ukraine were running out on conventional artillery shells, he felt obligated to offer cluster bombs as a temporary remedy.

In an interview televised on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the deployment of cluster bombs was a war crime. “This is how I think it should be regarded,” he told journalist Pavel Zarubin. He also stated that if Ukrainian forces employ such weapons on the battlefield, Russia reserves the right to respond.

Cluster munitions have been prohibited worldwide because some of the bomblets they release fail to detonate, posing a risk to bystanders. According to Amnesty International, cluster bombs have killed up to 86,500 civilians and wounded many more since World War II.

Sullivan also dismissed speculation that Putin is waiting for Biden to be voted out of office in 2024. Former President Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential contender, has vowed to end the crisis within 24 hours by driving all parties to the bargaining table. “If, in fact, he is betting on NATO unity and Ukraine’s resilience,” Sullivan added, arguing that Putin had overestimated NATO unity and Ukraine’s resilience.