US Accused of Accidentally Admitting to War Crimes

( – The US has been accused of confessing to war crimes — by, of all people, Russia. In an astonishing display of hypocrisy, the Kremlin says an admission that US-supplied cluster munitions could cause civilian casualties in Ukraine is a “de facto” confession. The problem is Russia’s claim doesn’t just ignore its own behavior; it’s also factually inaccurate.

On July 7, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced that the latest $800 million package of US weapons for Ukraine will include cluster munitions. Security spokesman John Kirby later justified the move by pointing out that “we can all agree that more civilians have been and will continue to be killed by Russian forces… than will likely be hurt by the use of these cluster munitions.” He was referring to the fact that, like all munitions, a percentage of the bomblets deployed by cluster munitions fail to explode — and, being smaller and scattered on the ground, rather than buried beneath it as an unexploded shell or bomb is likely to be, they can be dangerous to civilians.

Russian ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov immediately jumped on Kirby’s statement, claiming he had “de facto confessed to the United States committing war crimes during the Ukrainian conflict.” Many Democrats have taken the same line, with presidential challenger Robert F Kennedy Jr claiming the move is an “escalation.”

It’s not an escalation, though — and it isn’t a war crime either. Russia has been using cluster bombs since the first day of its attack; the Russian Army has been using 9P140 Uragan and 9A52 Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems regularly, and the standard rockets for both are cluster munitions. Ukraine has used similar weapons in response, so the introduction of US cluster munitions, which are likely to be 155mm artillery shells, isn’t an escalation.

Nor is it true that the use of cluster munitions is a war crime. A hundred and twenty-three countries have signed a convention that bans their manufacture or use — but it’s only binding on countries that have signed it. Those countries do not include Russia, Ukraine or the US. Russia’s complaints have no legal or moral basis; they just don’t want more effective US weapons being used against their invasion force.

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