WASHINGTON, July 9 (Reuters) – Democratic US Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Barbara Lee on Sunday expressed concerns about President Joe Biden’s administration’s decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion.
The United States said on Friday It would supply Kiev with the largely banned bombs as part of a new $800 million security package, bringing total U.S. military aid to over $40 billion since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
rights groups and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have questioned Washington’s decision on the munitions.
Kaine said he had “some real concerns” about the US decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine because it could inspire other countries to circumvent an international convention banning the munitions.
“It could give other nations the green light to do something else as well,” Kaine told Fox News on Sunday. However, he added that he “appreciates that the Biden administration has addressed the risks.”
“You will not use these munitions against Russian civilians,” Kaine, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said of Ukraine’s possible use of these bombs, adding that Kiev had given assurances set out by the White House on Friday.
Cluster munitions are banned in more than 100 countries. Russia, Ukraine and the United States have not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the manufacture, stockpiling, use and transfer of these weapons.
They typically release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a large area. Those that don’t explode continue to pose a threat decades after a conflict has ended.
Lee urged the Biden administration to reconsider the move.
“Cluster bombs should never be used. This is crossing borders,” she said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, adding that the United States risks losing its “moral leadership” if it sends cluster bombs to Ukraine.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby defended the decision, saying the United States is very focused on demining efforts in Ukraine.
“We are very aware of the concern about civilian casualties and unexploded ordnance being picked up and injured by civilians or children,” Kirby said in an interview with ABC’s This Week.
“But this ammo provides a useful ability on the battlefield,” he said. He added that Russia is using cluster munitions in Ukraine and “killing civilians indiscriminately” while Ukrainians will use them to defend their own territory.
Support for Ukraine during the Russian invasion was largely bipartisan in the United States. The Biden administration and many US lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican parties have defended the decision to send the controversial weapons to Ukraine on the grounds that they would be needed to speed up Kiev’s counteroffensive.
US Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Ukraine’s counteroffensive is slow and the cluster bombs could be a “game changer” for Ukrainians.
“They would change the game in the counteroffensive. And I’m really glad the government finally agreed to that,” McCaul told CNN on Sunday.
Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Joey Roulette, additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Edited by Scott Malone and Andrea Ricci