In the final week of his presidency, Joe Biden arrived in Britain before the NATO summit in Lithuania, in response to the concerns raised by several allies regarding the sending of cluster bombs in Ukraine.
Concerns are being raised by multiple nations, including the United Kingdom and Canada, regarding the availability of these highly perilous bombs. The widespread prohibition of these explosives is rooted in their immense danger to innocent civilians.
The United States argues that the need for these bombs arises from the diminishing arsenal of weapons in Ukraine.
Biden’s Meeting with Sunak
On Monday, Joe Biden had a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the UK.
There is a flicker of optimism that the upcoming discussions between the two leaders will serve as a pathway towards finding essential solutions to a variety of urgent issues, including the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The anticipation is that fruitful discussions will help alleviate tensions and bring about a positive shift in the situation, fostering a ray of optimism for those affected by the strife.
Following the announcement of cluster bombs on Friday,
While refraining from directly criticizing his American counterpart, Mr. Sunak subtly highlighted the United Kingdom’s commitment to the cause. By mentioning the UK’s participation as one of the 123 signatories of the Cluster Munitions Convention, an international treaty prohibiting the production and usage of these weapons, he conveyed the country’s firm stance against such destructive practices.
However, other American allies have taken further steps. NATO partner New Zealand stated on Sunday that the use of explosive weapons could cause “significant harm to innocent people.”
Cluster bombs typically scatter multiple small explosive devices that can cause indiscriminate killings over a wide area. Unexploded bomblets can lurk on the ground for years before unexpectedly going off, putting people at risk.
The United States claims to have received written assurances from Kiev that Ukrainian troops will not use weapons in Russian or urban areas.
While in Britain, President Biden will also meet King Charles for the first time after his coronation.
Afterwards, on Tuesday and Wednesday, he will meet with NATO member countries in Wales. Boosting ammunition stockpiles and reviewing defense plans will be on the agenda.
Having joined the alliance in April, Finland will participate in its first summit, while Turkey has blocked Sweden’s plan, accusing it of sheltering terrorists. It is expected that President Biden will seek support from Prime Minister Sunak to assist in negotiations with Turkey.
Ukraine is keen to join NATO and hopes to participate in its summit this week. However, speaking with CNN prior to his trip, President Biden stated that it cannot happen until the war ends, as it goes against the alliance’s long-term policy.
Referring to the mutual defense agreement within NATO, President Biden emphasized that members pledge to defend every inch of each other’s territory, meaning “if war is on, we are all in.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had previously accepted this stance when taking office, signaling that his country could join the alliance once the war concludes. His participation in this week’s summit is eagerly anticipated.
The US decision to fulfill Ukraine’s request for cluster bombs came on Friday. Authorities stated that it formed a portion of an extensive $800 million package to support the military.
President Biden described it as a “very tough decision” but ultimately took action because “Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.”
However, several NATO allies have immediately distanced themselves from the decision.
Canada and Spain, both member countries, voiced their opposition to New Zealand’s objection.
Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles stated, “No to cluster bombs and yes to valid defense for Ukraine, which we believe should not be compromised by the use of cluster bombs.”
However, another signatory to the convention and NATO member, Germany, said that while it would not supply Ukraine with such weapons, it understood the American position.
Their concerns regarding supply relate to the failure rate of cluster bombs, which can result in indiscriminate explosions.
However, the United States maintains that its cluster bombs exhibit a reduced rate of malfunctions when contrasted with the bombs currently deployed by Russia in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Ukraine has promised not to use weapons in civilian areas and will keep them under supervision and report accordingly, but Russia dismissed these assurances as “unworthy.”
This visit by President Biden to the UK marks an unusual time for the NATO alliance led by the United States.
President Biden’s absence from the coronation of King Charles in May was perhaps not an intentional snub, but it was noted.
President Biden’s stopover in Britain is brief, indicating that there may be no significant strain on the Transatlantic alliance and a likelihood of adhering to adequate protocols.