The US supplying cluster bombs and depleted uranium to Ukraine - and Ukraine using them - is an admission that the territories have now been permanently lost to Russia.
Ukraine is over one month into its long-awaited counteroffensive, with bleak results. Russia has held its defensive line, backed by only a partially mobilized army. On the other hand - Ukraine has seemingly been giving it their all - several rounds of mobilization backed by logistics, weaponry, and armor courtesy of NATO countries.
Throughout the course of the war, Ukraine - and the West - have obfuscated the actual losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Ukraine also admits to making up heroic stories - like the “Ghost of Kiev” - to stir up public support. Through the fog of war, maintaining the narrative is important. It allows for public support, the proliferation of weapons, and financial support.
The fog is now clearing. Kiev is losing territory, weapons, tanks, and - most important of all now - the narrative. The counteroffensive is an absolute catastrophe and an objective failure - Kiev even admits losing 20% of its weapons and armor.
The United States, even before the start of the Russian invasion - was Kiev’s main supporter. Billions of taxpayer dollars given to Ukraine for aid primarily went to weapons and ammunition. The Russian invasion presented the United States with a unique situation where it could attempt to weaken Russia without sacrificing a single American or NATO soldier - they had the Ukrainians to do it for them.
US Senator Lindsey Graham even brazenly admits that "Russians dying" is the "best money the US has ever spent." If the war is indeed an investment for the United States to weaken Russia, the gap to get the most bang for its buck is closing.
The United States, in order to make sure it can inflict as much damage as possible within this closing gap, is now resorting to sending horrific weapons that will at best temporarily hold off a Russian advance and at worst pollute and destroy the region for years to come.
Early on in the failed counteroffensive, the destruction of NATO weaponry such as the Leopard and Bradley tanks prompted the US to approve depleted uranium rounds for Ukraine. Depleted uranium shells are effective at destroying armor, but leave a devastating side effect - they completely pollute the air, leaving catastrophic effects for years to come. The United States used DU shells in Fallujah - now, over a decade later, the city is nearly permanently altered. Children are born with horrific birth defects that can be fatal, cancer and miscarriage rates are sky-high, and uranium is even detected in human tissue.
A few weeks after the approval and delivery of depleted uranium came the arrival of the cluster bombs - sparking worldwide outrage. Cluster munitions contain packs of submunition that can either detonate on impact or detonate years later. The usage of the bomb is banned by over 100 countries because of the likelihood of the weapon indiscriminately killing civilians.
The usage of both depleted uranium and cluster bombs admits a few things, and none of them spell out a victory for Ukraine.
First, Ukraine won’t gain back any strategic territory now held by Russians. The US supplying these weapons to Ukraine - and Ukraine using them - is an admission that this territory is now permanently lost, as the depleted uranium will permanently alter it and the cluster munitions will make it a death trap for civilians. Those problems will now be passed off to Russia, which will have to spend years dealing with the task of monitoring radiation levels and clearing out undetonated bombs.
It is also becoming clear that Ukraine is not only losing thousands of soldiers but its Western-delivered tanks are being rendered useless. The counteroffensive alone is estimated to cost the Armed Forces of Ukraine almost one thousand soldiers per day for a week at one point. The NATO tanks and artillery were supposed to deliver, but they didn’t - instead, images of dozens of these tanks burning and being captured spread like wildfire over Telegram. Russian President Vladimir Putin even commented that the tanks “burn nicely.” The DU rounds and cluster munitions will have to deliver what the former weaponry did not.
The incoming weapons also mean NATO is not really coming to help. The NATO summit this month was a massive disappointment for Kiev - there is no path or timeline for the war-ravaged country to join NATO, and NATO does not want to risk a direct war with Russia. US President Joe Biden said Ukraine can join when it “defeats Russia,” but this comment was made in the midst of the failing counteroffensive. As the summer days wind down, the chance for any significant breakthroughs diminishes. The delivery of these weapons - which could have happened at any point in this war - is a way to keep Ukrainian forces committed to the US goal of killing Russians.
Adding to this point is the fact that the United States completely gives up its moral high ground with the delivery of these weapons. A few “progressive” politicians in the US have spoken against the delivery of both of these types of weapons, and Joe Biden even says it was a “difficult decision” to send cluster bombs to Ukraine.
“Difficult decisions” come at desperate times - and desperate times call for desperate measures. However, these weapons won’t bring victory - or most importantly, peace - to Ukraine. For the United States, this has always been the perfect opportunity to weaken a longstanding global rival. Much to Washington’s dismay, things aren’t working out the way they intended.
As it stands, the Ukrainian military officials are restrategizing their efforts in the counteroffensive. Russian lines are strong, and the “gray zones” where clashes are occurring have not shifted in any side’s favor. If the Ukrainians are able to use their newly acquired weapons successfully, they would still have to cut through kilometers worth of Russian-mined areas while maneuvering around Russian artillery and air support.
As the region becomes permanently damaged by the use of these weapons, nations must come together to draft a permanent peace and encourage dialogue - otherwise, the United States will continue to escalate the carnage.
Shabbir Rizvi Political analyst that specializes in US foreign and domestic policy, geopolitics, and military science; Anti-war organizer.
This article was produced by Almayadeen.