The US Department of Defence announced on Monday that it will send Ukraine another $350 million worth of military aid. The further supplies come as Ukraine reportedly gears up for a spring offensive, despite suffering heavy losses in Donbass.
The package is the 34th tranche of military aid doled out to Ukraine by the US since August 2021. It includes ammunition for Kiev’s US-provided HIMARS rocket artillery systems, 155mm artillery rounds, high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs), riverine patrol boats, and other anti-tank and mortar systems.
Amid reports of dwindling stockpiles at home, the Pentagon no longer discloses how much of each ammunition type its arms packages include. These figures have been omitted from every such statement since the beginning of January, but a comparison of the supplemental fact sheets released with each package suggests that the US has sent Ukraine at least 500,000 155mm shells since the beginning of March
These NATO-standard shells are in desperate demand, with Ukrainian Defence Minister Aleksey Reznikov claiming earlier this month that his forces need 594,000 per month to fire their Western-provided guns at full capacity. Aside from those provided by the US, Reznikov has asked the EU to provide 250,000 shells per month.
At a meeting on Monday, however, 18 EU countries committed to providing just a million of these shells within a year, a figure that falls well short of Kiev’s demands.
Media reports have warned or months that the effort to arm Ukraine has depleted military inventories in the US and Europe. With Kiev reportedly ignoring Western advice and refusing to surrender the encircled city of Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine), US and EU officials are now concerned that its forces may lack the ammunition for a springtime offensive against Russia, the New York Times reported last week.
The US has given Ukraine more than $32.5 billion in military aid since last February, out of more than $110 billion allocated by the administration of US President Joe Biden for military and economic assistance to Kiev. Russia has repeatedly warned that such military outlays will not change the outcome of the conflict but make Western nations de-facto participants in the hostilities.
Four Republican congressmen have entreated US President Joe Biden to send cluster munitions, a controversial weapon banned in 110 countries, to Ukraine, dismissing concerns about escalating the conflict as misplaced in a letter to the White House on Tuesday.
The Biden administration shouldn’t hesitate to send cluster munitions – specifically dual purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) – because of “vague concerns about the reaction of allies and partners and unfounded fears of ‘escalation’,” Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Alabama) wrote in their letter. After all, they said, other countries have already sent such weapons without triggering Russian retaliation.
Acknowledging the weapons’ horrific effects, the signatories argued that while Ukrainian leaders are “aware of the risks to non-combatants,” the “existential threat posed by Russia’s invasion and daily acts of barbarity” is more important. Additionally, they claimed, “d,” US DPICM are equipped with “technologically advanced measures” that limit collateral damage.
A 2008 UN treaty banned cluster munitions in 110 countries, including three-quarters of NATO member nations. It has been signed by another 13 countries, though neither Russia, Ukraine, nor the US are on that list. Ukraine is the only country where the deadly devices are currently in use, and both sides have been accused of deploying them in the conflict.
Aside from one attack in Yemen in 2009, the US has not used cluster munitions since it invaded Iraq in 2003 and has not produced any since 2016. Central Command has admitted the hundreds of smaller bombs they contain are often left unexploded across the strike area, posing risks similar to landmines to anyone – especially children – who encounter the odd-looking little “petal mines.”
While the White House initially balked at Kiev’s request for DPICMs in December, it stopped short of a hard “no,” and the issue is reportedly still under consideration if the US runs out of available ammunition to ship overseas.
In April, 27 members of Congress denounced Russia’s alleged use of cluster munitions, calling them “barbaric and indiscriminate weapons” and urging Biden to join the UN convention. The current policy, they said, was “wholly unacceptable given what we know about the immediate and long-term damage done to societies on which they are deployed.”
While the Republican Party’s 2022 campaign platform stressed curtailing the Biden administration’s blank check to Kiev, the Pentagon announced another $350 million in weapons just this week, to be drawn from the US’ own stockpiles.