July 14, 2024

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Biden visits the UK and meets Sunak and King Charles amid Ukraine worries

US President Joe Biden has arrived in the UK ahead of a NATO summit in Lithuania later this week, following the questioning of his decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine by several allies. Concerns have been raised by countries like the UK and Canada about supplying these banned weapons due to the danger they pose to civilians. The US argues that the bombs are necessary due to Ukraine’s dwindling weapon stocks.

On Monday, Biden is scheduled to meet UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss various issues, including the war in Ukraine. Sunak, while not directly criticising Biden, emphasised that the UK is a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty that bans the production and use of such weapons. Other allies, like New Zealand, have expressed stronger opposition, stating that the munitions could cause significant harm to innocent people.

Cluster bombs typically release numerous smaller bomblets that indiscriminately kill over a wide area, and unexploded bomblets can remain hazardous for years. The US claims to have received written reassurances from Kyiv that Ukrainian troops will not use the weapons in Russia or urban areas. During his visit to the UK, Biden will also meet King Charles for the first time since the King’s coronation. The NATO summit, consisting of 31 Western nations, will take place in Vilnius, where discussions on boosting ammunition stockpiles and reviewing defence plans are on the agenda.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accepted this position while hoping for a signal that his country will be able to join the alliance after the war. The cluster bombs, part of a military aid package worth $800 million, were announced on Friday. Biden, while acknowledging the difficulty of the decision, justified it by stating that Ukraine is running out of ammunition.

Some NATO allies, including Canada and Spain, have voiced opposition, while Germany, although not providing the weapons, understands the American position. Concerns about the failure rate of cluster bombs and their potential indiscriminate detonation have been raised. Ukraine has pledged not to use the weapons in civilian areas and will monitor and report their use, but Russia has dismissed these assurances.