President Joe Biden made a “tough moral call” in his decision to provide the Ukrainian military cluster munitions to use against the Russian invasion, former United States Lieutenant General Mark Hertling said on Saturday.
The Biden administration announced this week plans to send Ukraine cluster munitions, controversial bombs that would provide Ukrainian forces a more powerful defense against Russia, but carry a high risk of civilian casualties and have been banned in more than 120 countries due to these concerns. The announcement sparked pushback from conservatives and Biden’s fellow Democrats, with some allies voicing opposition to sending these weapons to Ukraine.
The munitions are the latest instance of the U.S. providing Kyiv powerful weaponry amid the Russia-Ukraine war, which was launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022. The U.S. joined Ukraine’s allies in providing billions of dollars worth of military aid that has been credited with bolstering the Eastern European country’s defense efforts, helping it turn the tide of the war in its favor allowing Ukraine to launch its own counteroffensive.
In response to the announcement, 19 progressive Democrats penned a letter to Biden warning about a “serious risk of severe harm to civilians” carried by these munitions. Meanwhile, former Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont and Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, warned in a joint opinion piece for The Washington Post that the munitions “cause indiscriminate terror and mayhem.”
Hertling, who served as the commanding general of the United States Army Europe and the Seventh Army, said Biden made a “tough call” in sending these weapons to Ukraine in a Twitter thread posted Saturday.
“It was a tough moral call by @POTUS to decide to provide this ammo now…primarily based on UAF running low of arty ammo they need today. The DPICM rounds will bridge a gap while more precision rounds are built,” he wrote. “It was a tough call because the military – & NATO allies – understand what these rounds can & can’t do.”
He continued to explain that there are “pros and cons” to sending these weapons to the war-torn country. He said that while they can damage equipment and will lead to casualties among Russian forces, they are not able to clear minefields and aren’t effective in clearing trenches.
Additionally, cluster munitions can “pose risks” to friendly personnel in the area near which these weapons are fired, Hertling wrote. He added that he understands both the U.S. rationale for these weapons, as well as the response from some Democrats.
There are pros & cons to providing cluster munitions.
It was a tough moral call by @POTUS to decide to provide this ammo now…primarily based on UAF running low of arty ammo they need today.
The DPICM rounds will bridge a gap while more precision rounds are built. 3/
— MarkHertling (@MarkHertling) July 8, 2023
“With war, some long term values and political objectives are often subject to short term requirements and the requirement to execute distasteful actions,” Hertling tweeted. “This is the center of this complex issue. Ukraine’s sovereignty and freedom take priority.”
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment via email.
In addition to some Democratic opposition, some U.S. allies have also voiced opposition to sending Ukraine cluster bombs. Many allies have adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which banned the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions, in 2008, according to Reuters.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Friday that as one of the countries that has signed onto the CCM, Germany would not be providing Ukraine with these weapons, Reuters reported.
The United States, Ukraine and Russia have not signed onto the treaty.
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