Senators Split on Biden’s Decision to Send Cluster Munitions to Ukraine

Senators Split on Biden’s Decision to Send Cluster Munitions to Ukraine
The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on June 8, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

U.S. senators are split on President Joe Biden’s decision to arm Ukraine with cluster munitions, with some members of both parties condemning the move and others supporting it.

Mr. Biden announced on July 7 that he had made the “very difficult decision” to arm Ukrainians with cluster munitions, also known as cluster bombs, a controversial armament banned by more than 100 countries. The United States, Ukraine, and Russia are not parties to the international treaty banning the weapon.

Cluster munitions, which release a series of “bomblets” when on or above a targeted location, can pose risks to civilians long after a conflict ends due to the possibility of unexploded bomblets, which can be costly and difficult to remove.

In an interview with CNN, Mr. Biden defended the move, saying, “It took me a while to be convinced to do it. But the main thing is, they either have the weapons to stop the Russians now from their—keep them from stopping the Ukrainian offensive through these areas—or they don’t. And I think they needed them.”

Topshot-ukraine-us-russia-conflict-war-diplomacy
U.S. President Joe Biden walks next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) as he arrives for a visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 20, 2023. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Criticism

The decision has drawn unease from some U.S. allies, including the UK and Canada, who pointed to the weapon’s potential harm to civilians.

Domestically, the move has also sparked criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters on Monday, “I am quite concerned about what [sending cluster mines] means in terms of civilian casualties, and ignoring what much of the rest of the world feels about those.”

“I’ve always opposed the use cluster bombs,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told The Epoch Times. “I don’t think it’s a weapon that should be used today. I was in favor of the international efforts to ban them. So I have serious concerns with the president’s doing.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also expressed opposition, citing the need for the United States to be prepared to face its larger threat, China.

“We can’t, the United States cannot commit more resources, more troops, make more security commitments in Europe,” Hawley told reporters. “At the same time, we need to be doing much more than we are in China. China is our number one foreign adversary. It is a threat we are not prepared to face, and doing more in Europe is the wrong tack.”

Sen. Josh Hawley
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) delivers remarks during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 21, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Rather, Mr. Hawley said that the United States’ European allies should pick up more of the burden for assisting Ukraine, adding that Washington is stretching itself too thin in trying to focus on countering Russia and China at the same time.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), when asked about his reaction to the news, said that he opposed the war altogether.

“My big concern there is that there are people dying right now,” the senator said.

He added: “I’m just concerned that it just appears that Joe Biden keeps crossing the lines he drew, he told us that we wouldn’t have troops over there—we now have troops there … He told us we wouldn’t help him get jets, but now we’re training them to use jets. … And now the cluster bombs as well.”

Support

Others, however, were more laudatory of the move.

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Ala.) said the move was “long overdue.”

roger wicker
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington on Jan. 26, 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) agreed, calling it “a great idea.”

Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said they were yielding to Biden’s judgment on the issue.

“I know this is a very difficult decision, and I trust his judgment,” Ms. Stabenow said.

“He’s clearly given it great consideration,” Ms. Gillibrand agreed.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said, “I absolutely support that. I think it’s … it’s critical that we defend and support Ukraine.”

“It has to be done to make sure Ukraine can defend themselves,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said.

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) said it was “a difficult decision” but applauded how Mr. Biden “balanced the competing interests.”

Meanwhile, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was more ambiguous in his attitude toward the move, suggesting that he could see both sides of the position.

Mr. Grassley said: “I’m not a fan of cluster bombs. But I think since Russia has been using them for a long time, that we’re not upping the ante in the war, that we’re just balancing the two sides.”

Chris Murphy
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairman Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) makes opening remarks before hearing testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 26, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) acknowledged that the administration “was in a very tough spot” in making its decision, noting that the ammunition is “running low” in Ukraine.

“I think the administration took pains to try to make sure that there is as little long-term downside for the Ukrainian people as possible,” he said.

The senator noted, however, that he ultimately opposes the decision on the grounds that it would hurt the United States’ credibility in future non-proliferation negotiations.

“I think we’re going to be in the business of trying to control the development of some really terrible, really dangerous weapons systems in particular, connected to artificial intelligence over the course of the next several decades,” Mr. Murphy said.

“I’ve had a long conversation with administration. I think they have done the best job they can to protect the Ukrainian people in the long run,” Murphy said. “But I still would rather that we had not made the decision.”

From The Epoch Times

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