Without doubt if cluster bombs were being deployed by Russia or official US enemies, NATO would condemn it (and has in the past). But with the Biden administration now reportedly moving forward with sending cluster munitions to Ukraine, Stoltenberg has said that "Nato does not have a position on them" as some allies have signed up to prohibit their use and some haven’t.
He was specifically asked by a reporter about the wisdom of allowing them to be sent to the Ukrainians. He had further added in response, "This will be for governments to decide, not for Nato to decide."
"We are facing a brutal war, and we have to remember this brutality is reflected, that every day we see casualties, and that cluster munitions are used by both sides," he sought to justify and explain. "And Russia used cluster munitions to invade another country. Ukraine is using cluster munitions to defend itself."
The Associated Press first reported Thursday that the White House has decided to arm Ukraine with cluster bombs after many weeks of intense internal discussion and debate over the controversial munitions. The cluster bombs are expected to be announced as part of the next $800 million arms package.
On the very same day it was widely reported the US administration is ready to pull the trigger on sending the bombs, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a scathing report. It concluded:
- Ukrainian forces have used cluster munitions that caused deaths and serious injuries to civilians. Russian forces have extensively used cluster munitions, causing many civilian deaths and serious injuries.
- Cluster munitions used by Russia and Ukraine are harming civilians now and will leave bomblets behind that will continue to do so for many years.
- Both sides should immediately stop using cluster munitions and not seek to obtain more of these indiscriminate weapons. The US should not transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine.
Other groups and activists have warned it marks an escalation which is to provide greater dangers to civilians now and in the future.
Below is one of many examples of US state-funded media (RFERL) and organizations like the UNHR condemning Russia's deployment of cluster bombs earlier in the conflict:
UN Says It Has Credible Reports Of Russian Use Of Cluster Bombs In Ukraine https://t.co/Z1q7fHFMC0— Stephen Hoffman #IStandWithUkraine (@thehoff102) March 17, 2022
Prior Washington hesitation on sending cluster bombs stems from the fact that some 120 countries have banned cluster munitions as they have long been understood to be more indiscriminate than conventional weapons, given they randomly disperse small bombs over large areas.