A senior US official has said that the Biden administration is actively considering whether to provide Ukraine with the controversial cluster munitions but has not reached a final decision.
Dual Purpose Enhanced Conventional Munitions (DPICM) are surface-to-surface warheads designed to explode and then disperse smaller munitions which are in turn designed to explode over a wider area. However, when these bomblets do not explode, civilians are at greater risk of death or injury if they accidentally trip over them and cause an explosion. That risk and pushback from partners and allies have so far led the administration to avoid sending the weapons to Ukraine in part.
However, a senior official has stated that the decision is being considered further and that a change could be in the works. Although the official did not elaborate on why the administration might change course, he noted that since both Ukraine and Russia have been using similar cluster munitions throughout the conflict, there is already a need to “clean up” scattered unexploded ordnance.
When asked about the pending decision on the DPICM, the head of the Army Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said that it is a decision that President Joe Biden will have to make.
“When it comes to decision-making, we, as part of the process, consider all kinds of options,” the four-star general told an audience at a National Press Club event. “One of my jobs… is to prepare an option for the president, any president, and lay out what that option is, and what the cost risks and benefits are.”
“We have been thinking about the DPICM for a long time; the Ukrainians have asked for it,” he added later. “Other European countries have provided some of that; the Russians are using it. So yes, of course, there is an ongoing decision-making process, and it’s an ongoing process.”
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the pending decision. It is also unclear to what extent Washington is consulting with its foreign allies and partners on this decision, especially considering that countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom are signatories to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. (United States, Russia and Ukraine have not signed the treaty).
A US State Department spokesman did not directly address the status of ongoing talks with allies and partners about the possible delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine but did note that Washington continues to reassess what capabilities the Eastern European nation needs to defend against Russian forces.
“As Russia’s war against Ukraine has evolved, so has US security assistance,” the spokesperson wrote. “We will continue to consult closely with Ukraine and work tirelessly to continue deliveries in support of Ukraine’s brave defenders. We will also continue to work with allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities.”
Reports about this decision emerged Thursday, just hours after the Wall Street Journal reported that the White House is considering another landmark decision: to send a longer-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Kyiv to fire from their High Mobility Artillery Rocket System ( HIMARS) M142 launchers.
For his part, the Pentagon’s press secretary, Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder, told reporters that he had nothing new to announce about ATACMS and was “not aware of any imminent decisions” related to that matter.
“We are going to constantly examine the variety of capabilities, once again, based on what Ukraine’s most urgent needs are,” the one-star general told reporters on Thursday.