But will continue to support Ukraine in legitimate defence of illegal invasion
Portugal is one of a number of countries that signed up to the Oslo Convention, prohibiting the use of cluster bombs that the United States has decided it will supply to Ukraine.
Ukraine has asked for the bombs on the basis that it will not use them in areas with civilians; it is running out of ammunition and their use could pick up the sticky pace of the counter offensive.
For these three reasons, the US (not a signatory of the Oslo Convention) says it has reluctantly agreed – leaving other allies in the difficult position of having to show where they stand, without affecting the outcome.
If the US wants to give Ukraine cluster bombs, it will.
Portugal is one of a number of countries now reaffirming their positions on a rather spurious fence… more the back of a deckchair perhaps, than a fence.
Russia is already using cluster bombs in its armory against Ukraine – and they are not the more sophisticated type that the US says it is sending (with a failure-to-detonate-on-impact rate of less than 2.5%). The bombs used by Russia have a failure-to-detonate-on-impact rate of around 30% to 40%, according White House defence advisor Jake Sullivan, rendering them far more heinous in the long-term.
Thus, for now at least, countries like Portugal are simply stating their positions, but saying that they fully support Ukraine “in its legitimate defence against the illegal and unjustified invasion by Russia”.
A joint statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence has outlined the reasons for being against cluster bombs: “these types of weapons can provoke victims in a very large area, sometimes even a long time after they have been dropped” (referring to the failure of bombs to detonate on impact, only to detonate at random years later).
Russia itself has said the decision by the United States “is an act of desperation” that “shows weakness against the backdrop of the failure of the much-touted Ukrainian counteroffensive”.
Sky News has explained that “America holds a vast dormant stockpile of cluster munitions. They could shift the momentum significantly on the ground, wiping out heavily dug in Russian troops.
“American officials are accepting that a legacy of civilian casualties is a risk but counter it by arguing that more civilians are at risk by allowing Russia to occupy Ukrainian land.”
Another aspect will be how the decision might further erode the morale of Russian troops, already believed to be less than committed to this fight. Could the prospect of cluster munitions being dropped into their dug-outs exacerbate internal issues within the Russian military – thus aiding Ukraine before it has even had to use them?
Next week’s NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, will see all these questions aired.
Meantime a lot of this ‘debate’ in the public space is for show. According to back stories on the war, Turkey started supplying Ukraine with cluster bombs late last year.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine are signatories to the Oslo Convention.