Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the decision by the United States to send them cluster munitions to aid in their war effort against Russia, speaking Wednesday at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“Russia constantly uses cluster munitions on our territory. It wages war exclusively on our land. It kills our people,” Zelensky said Wednesday.
“This is about justice,” Zelensky added. “We defend ourselves, without using [these] weapons on the territory of other states.”
Zelensky said that all cluster munitions supplied to Ukraine would be used “purely for military purposes” in the Russian-occupied southern and eastern regions of the country.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told the media in a press briefing last Friday that Ukraine has promised to be “very careful” with the controversial munitions, which have been banned in over 100 countries due to the risk of killing civilians.
Unexploded bombs left behind by cluster munitions can function as land mines, making civilian areas dangerous long after the original bomb was dropped.
Last Friday President Biden told CNN host Fareed Zakaria that sending cluster munitions to Ukraine was a “difficult decision,” but that it was necessary because “the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.”
Biden also revealed during his CNN interview that the U.S. itself is facing a shortage of ammunition.
“This is a war relating to munitions. And they’re running out of that ammunition, and we’re low on it,” Biden said. “And so, what I finally did, I took the recommendation of the Defense Department to – not permanently – but to allow for this transition period, while we get more 155 weapons, these shells, for the Ukrainians.”
In a communication released Tuesday evening, NATO leaders announced that Ukraine will not be admitted into the alliance while their war with Russia is ongoing.
“We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met,” the leaders wrote, while reaffirming their support of their war effort and committing to a path toward accepting Ukraine into NATO.
“Ukraine’s future is in NATO,” they wrote.
U.S. Senator from Maine Angus King was in attendance at the Vilnius NATO summit, and told reporters that the compromise on placing a timeline on Ukraine’s NATO membership would incentive Russia prolonging their invasion, according to Maine Public.
“That can be an incentive — a kind of perverse incentive — to Vladimir Putin to prolong the war because he’s paranoid about NATO,” Sen. King said in a press conference Wednesday.
“Even though NATO is a defensive alliance, he’s convinced that the real role of NATO is to attack Russia and unseat his administration. That’s not true, but … that’s the way he thinks,” King said.
“To me, the focus for Ukraine should be … is the West and NATO going to continue to support our fight? And the answer to that is a resounding yes,” he added.
Zelensky took to Twitter on Tuesday, slamming NATO over its “vague wording” about the conditions Ukraine needs to meet to be admitted into the alliance.
“It’s unprecedented and absurd when time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine’s membership. While at the same time vague wording about “conditions” is added even for inviting Ukraine,” the Ukrainian president wrote.
“It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance,” he added. “This means that a window of opportunity is being left to bargain Ukraine’s membership in NATO in negotiations with Russia. And for Russia, this means motivation to continue its terror.”