Biden: Approval of US cluster bombs for Ukraine was difficult decision

Top foreign policy Republicans in Congress say the controversial weapons approval was 'long overdue'

Joe Biden. The US said Kyiv had assured the government it would use the weapons 'in a very careful way'. AP
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It was a “difficult decision” to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions for the first time, said US President Joe Biden in a pre-recorded interview aired on Sunday.

“It took me a while to be convinced to do it,” Mr Biden said in a sit-down interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

The unexploded components of cluster bombs can kill and maim for decades after a conflict has ended. That is in part why they are banned by more than 120 countries, including US Nato allies, under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Russia, the US, Ukraine and dozens of other countries including the UAE and Saudi Arabia are not signatories.

“I discussed this with our allies, I discussed this with our friends … the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition,” Mr Biden added.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan echoed that sentiment when he announced the approval on Friday, saying Washington had “written assurances” from Kyiv that it “is going to use these in a very careful way that is aimed at minimising any risk to civilians”.

But at least one key ally in Washington's support of Ukraine, Germany, repeated its opposition to the weapons after the US announcement.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters at a climate conference in Vienna: "I have followed the media reports. For us, as a state party, the Oslo agreement applies."

The Democratic Biden administration's decision to send the controversial munitions was met with support from senior foreign policy Republicans in Washington.

House foreign affairs committee chairman Michael McCaul, Senate foreign relations committee ranking member Jim Risch and Senate armed services committee ranking member Roger Wicker released a joint statement calling the approval “long overdue”.

“[Ukrainians] want [cluster munitions] as self defence to use against Russians in their own country ... I don't see anything wrong with that,” Mr McCaul said in a CNN interview on Sunday.

“The counter-offensive, it's been slowed tremendously because this administration has been so slow to get these weapons and these [cluster munitions] will be a game-changer,” he added.

Russia’s war in Ukraine reached its 500th day on Saturday, as Kyiv's counter-offensive grinds on without yielding major results.

Ukraine's ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, told The National after the Friday announcement that Kyiv would use the cluster munitions “very responsibly, because it is our territory and our people”.

Ms Markarova added that “after the liberation of the territory where they were used, demining will be carried out immediately”.

Updated: July 10, 2023, 7:26 AM