Putin warns Kiev that Russia will reciprocate cluster munition use

Musk highlights the grim situation Ukraine is in.

Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher

Western media has admitted that significant amounts of weapons sent to Kiev to battle Russian forces were destroyed or damaged in the first two weeks of the offensive, which would explain why the US took the evidently desperate actionto transfer cluster bombs to the Kiev regime. Responding to this provocation, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that cluster munition use would be reciprocated. 

The Ukrainian offensive on the lines of operations south of Donetsk, Zaporozhye and Artemovsk (Bakhmut) began on June 4. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on June 27 that Ukraine had lost 259 tanks and 780 armoured vehicles since the start of the so-called counteroffensive, i.e., the first few weeks of the offensive. This aligns with what the New York Times recently admitted, the destruction of 20% of Ukrainian armoured vehicles in the first two weeks of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

On July 11, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported that since the start of its counteroffensive, Kiev had suffered more than 26,000 casualties and lost more than 3,000 pieces of various weapons.

Due to such devastation, Ukrainian General Valery Zaluzhnyexpressed dismay at the fact that his forces do not have Western F-16 warplanes, on which the US recently agreed to allow Ukrainian pilots to train. Without these warplanes, especially as the supply is expected to take at least several months, Ukrainian soldiers are vulnerable to Russian helicopters and artillery.

Camille Grand, former assistant secretary-general of NATO, said that the absence of air defences that Western jets could provide for an attack on Ukraine means “that casualty rates are likely to be higher than in other conventional conflicts.”

“American officials,” according to the New York Times, “said that the Ukrainians had begun moving again, but more deliberately, more adept at navigating minefields and mindful of the casualty risks. With the influx of cluster munitions from the United States, they said, the pace might pick up.”

However, this is seemingly not going to be the case as Ukraine will soon run out of cluster munitions and will not receive any more in the aftermath of the US receiving global condemnation for its hypocritical decision after warning Russia not to use such weapons. 

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on July 16, “Our current plan is not to replenish that stockpile. It is rather to build up the capacity to produce the unitary round of the 155, the non-cluster munition round of ammunition.”

For his part, Lieutenant General Douglas Sims II, director of operations for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, said at a press conference that Ukraine had received cluster munitions from the US, as well as from other countries, six days after Washington revealed the weapons would be included in a new round of military assistance.

This provocative action prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to warn Kiev on July 16 that he would consider using them against Ukraine “if they are used against us.”

“Russia has a sufficient supply of various types of cluster munitions,” the Russian leader said during an interview. “If they are used against us, we reserve the right to mirror actions.”

In his interview, Putin highlighted that the Biden administration had previously called the use of cluster munitions a war crime and that he agreed with that assessment.

For all the brave talk by Sullivan about replenishing stockpiles, Putin pointed out in his address that the Ukrainian Army uses about six thousand 155 mm calibre projectiles daily in its operations, while the US produces 15,000 per month.

“They don’t have enough, and Europe doesn’t have enough anymore. But they haven’t found anything better than proposing cluster munitions,” the Russian leader said.

In fact, even Twitter owner Elon Musk highlighted the contradiction of Sullivan and the impossibility of the situation for Ukraine.

“I want the best outcome for the people. Russia has at least 4 times the artillery of Ukraine and 10 times the ammunition. We have run out of normal ammunition to send Ukraine, so now send them cluster bombs in desperation, debasing ourselves with no change to the outcome,” Musk tweeted.” 

Considering that Washington warned Russia against using cluster munitions but is now sending them to the Kiev regime, it highlights the Ukrainian military’s desperate position. This situation will not be reversed as Ukraine does not have the manpower or capabilities to win the war, which is now being fought on Russia’s terms and pace.

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