NATO leaders are frantically trying to finalise a security pledge to Ukraine ahead of Vilnius summit as Moscow says cluster bomb delivery a war crime
Washington is reportedly rushing to complete an agreement with its most powerful NATO partners – the UK, Germany, and France – on a set of security guarantees for Ukraine so the deal can be presented to the full bloc when the Western military alliance gathers for a summit this week in Vilnius.
Germany-deployed Patriot system is seen at Vilnius airport for security during the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 8, 2023 © AP / Mindaugas Kulbis
The group’s power brokers have been holding “frantic, last-minute” negotiations to finalize their agreement on a security declaration for Kiev, Politico reported on Sunday, citing four unidentified officials familiar with the talks. The declaration would create an “umbrella” for all countries willing to provide military aid to Ukraine, even though details of the security commitments may vary from nation to nation.
The US, UK, France, and Germany have been discussing the issue with Ukrainian leaders for weeks and have “reached out” to other allies within NATO, the EU, and the G7, Politico said. The four governments aim to unveil their framework agreement at the summit in hopes that other members will join with them in the security pledges. The two-day event is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has pressed for NATO to accelerate his country’s bid to join the alliance, but multiple members of the bloc have said Kiev can’t be admitted at least until its conflict with Russia ends. German officials are reportedly reluctant to give Ukraine any guarantees on future membership, given concern that such a move could trigger a direct conflict with Russia.
In lieu of pledging NATO membership, Washington is willing to give Ukraine security assurances similar to those it provides Israel, US President Joe Biden told CNN in a recent interview.
Staffers for Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will try to “iron out last-minute details” at a meeting on Monday in London, Politico said. The allies may essentially promise to keep providing much of the aid that they have been giving Ukraine since Russia began its offensive against Kiev in February 2022.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, in a statement on Sunday. “The US could not care less about causing even more death and destruction far away from its borders.”
He stated after National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that some civilians “will likely be hurt” by US-supplied cluster bombs.“We have taken note of the Director for Strategic Communications of the NSC John Kirby’s statements about the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine.
The official de facto confessed to the United States committing war crimes during the Ukrainian conflict,” Antonov said in a statement on Sunday.Earlier on Sunday, Kirby stated in an interview with ABC that he believes “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.” According to Antonov, this twisted logic boils down to: “it won’t get any worse.”
“He overtly stated that civilians would fall victim to US cluster-type weapons. According to the perverted view of the White House representative, this does less harm than the actions of Russia,” the envoy said. The decision to supply Ukraine with banned cluster munitions was announced by the US last week and has sparked concern even among America’s allies, let alone international human rights groups and organizations. Canada, the UK, Austria, and Spain have all registered their objection to the US sending the weapons to Ukraine as well, citing the weapons’ known track record of harming the innocent even after the war is over.
Officials in Washington tried to defend the supply of deadly bomblets as a necessary temporary measure as the Ukrainian military is rapidly running out of conventional artillery shells, and the Pentagon is unable to supply more at this time. The White House and the Pentagon both insisted that Kiev had promised to minimize risks to civilians, while the US military vowed to carefully select munitions with the lowest ‘dud’ rates.
However, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said the quiet part out loud, insisting that he is “as concerned about the humanitarian circumstance as anybody, but the worst thing for civilians in Ukraine is for Russia to win the war. And so it’s important that they don’t.”
Human Rights Watch and other groups have objected to the plan, noting that cluster bombs have a high rate of unexploded ordnance that continues to kill and maim civilians for years afterward. The Convention on Cluster Munitions came into effect in August 2010, with signatories pledging to “never under any circumstances” use, develop, produce, or transfer the banned munitions, or assist, encourage and induce anyone else to do so. It has been ratified by 111 states so far – including most NATO members – though not by the US, Ukraine, or Russia.