We urge President Biden not to send cluster munitions to Ukraine.
In 2021, 97% of global deaths from cluster munitions were civilians and two thirds of these were children. Unexploded bomblets from cluster munitions litter areas of land posing a threat to children and adults long after a war has ended. It is therefore perfectly fair to describe a cluster munition as an indiscriminate weapon as it poses a danger not only in war but in peacetime too.
The Ukraine Defence Ministry says that it is using artillery shells at a rate of 5,000 to 9,000 per day. The decision of the United States to resort to cluster munitions comes in part because global supplies of non-cluster munitions will dwindle given this high rate of artillery bombardment.
The United States has millions of cluster munitions in stocks that it has not used due to its self-imposed moratorium. The Ukraine military has requested cluster munitions despite the obvious danger that unexploded bomblets will cause to the nation after the war.
It is true that there is already a large amount of unexploded ordinance on the battlefields of Ukraine, including Russian mines and unexploded cluster munitions. However, the use of US cluster munitions would massively add to that deadly quantity. The United States claim that the more modern cluster munitions they will provide have a failure rate of 2.35%. I have crunched some numbers: If one third of Ukrainian artillery ammunition were to be replaced with cluster munitions, in one year we could expect to see well over 1 million unexploded bomblets littering the communities and farmland of East and Southern Ukraine.
Cluster munitions are banned by international law. After years of campaigning by Churches and civil society groups, the UK government took a lead in drafting a strong treaty text in 2008. Our ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the UK from facilitating any army in its use of cluster munitions.
The use of this unethical weaponry would reflect badly on Western support for Ukraine and on NATO support for international treaty law. No single conflict should hold to ransom international law that is helping to protect civilians worldwide. At this week’s NATO summit, partners (some of whom have ratified the Cluster Munition Convention) should persuade the US Government to maintain its moratorium on the use and supply of cluster munitions. For the sake of the protection of civilians worldwide, we urge President Biden to think again.
 This takes a midrange usage rate of 7,000 shells per day and allocates one third to cluster munitions. We then assume that the US would be supplying either of their plentiful M483 or M864 (comprising 88 and 72 bomblets respectively) to arrive at a figure of unexploded bomblets of 1.4 million. This uses the US failure rate gained from test data of 2.35% which some suggest would be higher in battlefield conditions. Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (globalsecurity.org)