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16 Jul, 2023 21:28

White House rejects cluster bomb criticism

President Biden’s national security advisor has claimed Washington retains its “moral authority,” despite weaponry sent to Ukraine
White House rejects cluster bomb criticism

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has shrugged off claims that Washington might lose “moral authority” by providing controversial cluster bombs for Ukraine to use against Russian forces.

Sullivan addressed the issue in an NBC News interview on Sunday, defending President Joe Biden’s decision earlier this month to give Kiev munitions that the White House previously branded as criminal when they were allegedly used by Russia. Although cluster bombs are outlawed under an international treaty signed by more than 100 countries, Sullivan said neither the US nor Ukraine had ever been signatories to that pact.

“Our moral authority and Ukraine’s moral authority in this conflict comes 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 its civilians, destroying its schools, its churches, its hospitals,” Sullivan told NBC host Chuck Todd. “And the idea that providing Ukraine with a weapon in order for them to be able to defend their homeland, protect their civilians is somehow a challenge to our moral authority, I find questionable.”

Todd pointed out that Washington had tried 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.” Sullivan insisted the circumstances demanded Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions to Kiev, despite disagreement from the UK, Canada and other NATO allies.

“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 advisor said. “We are simply not going to leave Ukraine defenseless.”

Biden suggested in a CNN interview earlier this month that because the US and Ukraine had shortages of conventional artillery shells, he was compelled to provide cluster bombs as an interim solution.

Russian President Vladimir Putin noted in an interview aired on Sunday that the White House had branded use of cluster bombs as a war crime. “This is how I think it should be regarded,” he told journalist Pavel Zarubin. He added that if Ukrainian forces use such weapons on the battlefield, Russia reserves the right to respond appropriately.

Cluster munitions have been banned around the world because some of the bomblets they release fail to detonate, creating a threat to civilians. As many as 86,500 civilians have been killed by cluster bombs since World War II, and many more have been maimed, according to Amnesty International. 

Sullivan also rejected concerns that Putin might be waiting for Biden to be voted out of office in 2024. The leading Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, has vowed to end the conflict within 24 hours by forcing both parties to the negotiating table. Sullivan, who argued that Putin had miscalculated on NATO unity and Ukraine’s resilience, said: “If, in fact, he is betting on American resolve to falter or fail, he’s going to continue losing that bet.”