NEW YORK – Echoing a sentiment from Pope Francis, Rockford Bishop David Malloy, the U.S. bishops’ conference international justice and peace chair, has expressed his moral concern with the Biden Administration’s recent decision to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine.
Cluster munitions are weapons that scatter smaller sized munitions over a large area with the expectation that the bomblets will explode upon hitting the ground. But the weapon’s high rate of failure is historically a concern as late detonations – sometimes years later – can be devastating for civilians.
The Biden Administration announced they would send Ukraine the weapons last week. President Joe Biden later defended the decision in an interview, saying that “the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.” Biden, who has long resisted the move, also noted it was a difficult decision to make.
Jake Sullivan, a Biden Administration national security adviser, told reporters last week that the administration recognizes the weapons’ risk, but ultimately decided it was the proper call to make.
“We recognize cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordinance,” he said. “This is why we deferred the decision for as long as we could.”
“But 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. That is intolerable to us,” Sullivan said.
The Pentagon said July 13 that the cluster munitions provided by the United States arrived in Ukraine.
Since 2008, over 100 countries, including the Holy See, have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning their use, recognizing the weapons’ risk to civilian populations. The United States and Russia, however, have not signed the agreement. The U.S. bishops have long called on the government to do so.
Pope Francis has previously addressed the convention, calling on all countries to commit to the convention “so that there are no more mine victims.” Malloy echoed that sentiment July 14.
“While recognizing Ukraine’s right to self-defense, we must continue to pray for dialogue and peace, and I join with our Holy Father in supporting and sharing in his moral concern and aspiration,” Malloy said.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg