A Democrat representative has criticized President Joe Biden for his decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine.
California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee spoke against the decision on Sunday when she appeared on the CNN show “State of the Union” and spoke to anchor Jake Tapper.
“So, here’s how the White House is trying to justify giving Ukraine cluster munitions, despite the risk that they pose to civilians. Take a listen,” the anchor said before playing a clip of National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan explaining the decision.
“There is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks roll over Ukrainian positions and take more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians because Ukraine does not have enough artillery,” he said in the video.
“That is intolerable to us. This is their country they’re defending. These are their citizens they’re protecting. And they are motivated to use any weapon system they have,” he said.
“What do you think? Do you buy that argument? What’s your response?” the anchor said.
“No, cluster bombs should never be used. That’s crossing a line. Once you see what takes place — we know what takes place, in terms of cluster bombs being very dangerous to civilians. They don’t always immediately explode. Children can step on them. That’s a line we should not cross,” the representative said.
“I think the president’s been doing a good job managing this war, this Putin aggressive war against Ukraine, but I think that this should not happen. He had to ask for a waiver under the Foreign Assistance Act just to do it, because we have been preventing the use of cluster bombs since, I believe, 2010,” the representative, who was the only member of Congress to vote against war with Afghanistan in 2001, said.
“So, when Putin started using cluster bombs, the Biden White House said that that would potentially be a war crime. Do you think that, therefore, the U.S. government, the Biden administration, will potentially be engaging in war crimes if this goes forward?” the anchor said.
“What I think is that we are — would risk losing our moral leadership, because, when you look at the fact that over 120 countries have signed the convention on cluster munitions, saying they should never be used, they should never be used,” the representative said.
“And, in fact, many of us have urged the administration to sign onto this convention. And so I’m hoping that the administration would reconsider this, because these are very dangerous bombs, they’re dangerous weapons, and this is a line that I don’t believe we should cross,” she said.
In an interview with CNN the president said it was a tough decision for him.
“It was a very difficult decision on my part. And by the way, I discussed this with our allies, I discussed this with our friends up on the Hill,” the president said. “The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.”
“This is a war relating to munitions. And they’re running out of that ammunition, and we’re low on it,” he said. “And so, what I finally did, I took the recommendation of the Defense Department to – not permanently – but to allow for this transition period, while we get more 155 weapons, these shells, for the Ukrainians.”
“They’re trying to get through those trenches and stop those tanks from rolling. But it was not an easy decision,” Biden said. “We’re not signatories to that agreement, but it took me a while to be convinced to do it,” the president said.
“But the main thing is they either have the weapons to stop the Russians now – keep them from stopping the Ukrainian offensive through these areas – or they don’t. And I think they needed them,” he said.