Ukraine asked partners like the United States to supply cluster munitions for the first time last year. This was confirmed by representatives of several NATO countries on Monday of the German Press Agency. The US government then discussed the delivery of the controversial ammunition. A decision to fulfill Ukraine’s wish has apparently not been made so far, it said. In countries like Germany, which have signed a treaty banning cluster munitions, there are great reservations about such a step.

The federal government therefore does not want to allow Estonia to deliver cluster munitions previously produced in Germany to Ukraine. “Any inquiries about re-exports would have to be measured against the obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions or Section 18a of the War Weapons Control Act,” said a spokeswoman for the responsible Federal Ministry of Economics of the German Press Agency. “This results in a ban on the use, development, manufacture, acquisition, storage, retention and transfer of cluster munitions.”

Great danger to the population from duds

Cluster munitions are controversial mainly because a significant percentage of their explosive devices do not detonate, but remain on site as duds, thus endangering the population. It is called cluster munition because it scatters or releases smaller explosive devices – so-called submunitions.

Ukraine’s demands for the delivery of cluster munitions and phosphorus incendiary weapons recently caused a stir at the Munich Security Conference. Deputy Prime Minister Olexander Kubrakov said the United States and several other allies had millions of shots from it. He argued that this type of ammunition could help withstand the attackers. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also pointed out that Ukraine has not signed the international treaty banning the use of cluster munitions.

Legally, there are no obstacles to Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions, Kuleba said. If his country gets them, they will only be used against Russian forces. Ukraine has evidence that Russia is using cluster munitions, he stressed.

No categorical denial in the US

Media such as CNN had already reported on the discussion in the USA about the transfer of cluster munitions last December. The US news channel’s website said at the time that Ukrainian government officials and lawmakers had called on President Joe Biden’s administration and members of Congress to provide the Ukrainian military with cluster munitions warheads. Senior Biden officials have been processing the request for months and would not have categorically denied it.

Whether this has recently changed remained unclear on Monday. At the Munich Security Conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “We are supplying artillery and other types of weapons, but no cluster bombs.” However, it remained unclear whether he was only referring to the current status or whether he was categorically ruling out future delivery. In addition to the USA, several EU countries have not signed the treaty banning the use and transfer of cluster munitions. Among them are Poland, Romania, Latvia and Estonia.

According to information from the Estonian broadcaster ERR, Estonia recently considered passing on cluster munitions to Ukraine. The country has 155mm DM632 artillery shells releasing DM1385 submunitions, manufactured by the German defense contractor Rheinmetall. At the time, Estonia’s Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said without giving details that his country was trying to get the necessary permits for further military aid to Ukraine.