NATO’s Moral Imperative
By Dan Rice
Russia indiscriminately targeted civilians with air-dropped cluster bombs in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Georgia, Donbas, Crimea, Syria and again in the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Targeting civilians is a blatant and clear war crime. Russia has never been charged for these intentional war crimes which represent a pattern of behavior that should not only be charged as war crimes, but should cause it to be designated a State Sponsor of Terror.
Rather than confronting Russia directly, countries from around the globe (but not under direct threat from Russia) all came together in Oslo in 2008 to target the type of ammunition used by Russia in their indiscriminate targeting of civilians. In attempting to ban cluster munitions, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) merely helped the Russian cause. In a classic example of a “cobra effect” perverse incentive, an absolute ban on cluster munitions clearly gives the upper hand in any artillery fight to Russia - who refuses to even follow basic Geneva Convention rules of engagement and commits blatant war crimes at will. Russian doctrine always calls for employing massive amounts of conventional artillery, and as in Ukraine, it vastly outnumbers their enemy in artillery tubes and rounds.
Most of eastern European countries that border Russia have not signed the CCM: Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland. Those countries did not sign the CCM, because they know the fate of their nations would require the use of artillery ammunition called Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) to survive against Russia’s numerically superior artillery forces. They all reserved the right to fire DPICM against Russian invaders. Finland has abstained from all votes on CCM out of concern for defending itself against potential Russian aggression. Poland refused to sign the CCM, with a statement by then Defense Minister Bogdan Klich saying, "We need those weapons to defend our territory." The United States refused to sign the CCM, with the Department of State publishing a statement saying, “such a general ban on cluster munitions will put the lives of our military men and women, and those of our coalition partners, at risk.” Indeed, the US continues to develop and deploy new cluster munition systems with a goal of improving the unexploded ordinance (UXO) efficiency to 1% over the 3% efficiency of current US primary cluster munition, DPICM. In advance of fielding of these newer, more efficient munitions, DoD policy leaves the decision for employing DPICM in the hands of the commander on the ground. So the US can, and would likely use it, if fighting outnumbered against invading troops in Europe, or in Taiwan, or in South Korea.
Ukraine needs those DPICM rounds, the most effective and most widely available artillery munition in the US arsenal. The reason it is “DP” is dual purpose- it is good against both armor and personnel. The ammunition we are providing is nearly all High Explosive which is anti-personnel but not anti-armor. The Russia force is an armored force. The fight in Ukraine is an artillery duel and it will become worse. Winter weather is now making maneuver more difficult. Vehicles get stuck in mud. The 1,200-mile front is bogged down in a battle resembling the front in World War I. The Kherson and Kharkiv Ukrainian offensives have been tactically successful and this is greatly encouraging. But with winter coming, the lines will likely be static until spring. Soldiers will not see the enemy. They will simply die on both sides by artillery that drops from the sky. And Russia is firing 50,000 artillery rounds per day vs 6,000. The poor Ukrainian soldiers have endured this artillery duel for far too long being outnumbered. And they will likely have to endure a long winter being under constant barrage, unless DPICM is issued to Ukraine. With Russia mobilizing 300,000 troops, Putin is going to attempt to crush Ukraine through numerical superiority, regardless of Russian casualties.
This war is the first in many generations that is clearly ‘black and white.’ It is pure ‘good vs evil.’ The West has come together like never before. NATO is stronger than ever. However, the cluster munitions distraction of western European nations not under direct Russian threat is a weak argument against DPICM. As a military professional, it is indisputable that DPICM is more effective than the World War I like high explosive (HE) shells NATO currently supplies to Ukraine. DPICM has been the planned main defense of Western Europe for 50 years. Inexplicably, even as an aggressive Russia sits at the doorstep of Article V, NATO countries have refused supplying Ukraine with DPICM.
Upon the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, Ukraine suddenly became both an independent nation and the 3rd largest nuclear power in the world. In a momentous and unprecedented event, the leadership of Ukraine agreed to completely denuclearize in exchange for security assurances in the Budapest Memorandum. In a rare show of global unity, those security assurances were guaranteed by the three major signatories on the memorandum, the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia. The people of Ukraine willingly gave up the firepower that would ensure their security as a nation based on those security guarantees. Now Ukraine is under attack from one of those guarantors. The west has a moral obligation to live up to its promises to Ukraine and provide the conventional munitions for Ukraine to defend itself.
Ukraine is requesting DPICM. DPICM is a conventional weapon. The “C” in DPICM stands for “conventional”. Ukraine will obviously not target its own Ukrainian civilians, only Russian military targets. Ukraine takes full responsibility knowing that evicting the aggressor Russians comes with the price of having some Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) on Ukrainian land that will have to be cleaned up after the victory. The Russians are already littering these battlefields with UXO that will have to be dealt with. Ukraine will also document all areas where it is firing DPICM, making any clean up post-war easier. That takes away all of the major objections to giving the most lethal artillery round to the nation the West needs to support: Ukraine.
To display how confused this subject has become, Daniel Craig (aka James Bond) is, perhaps inadvertently, supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine. As the keynote speaker at the 2022 Cluster Munitions Convention, he stated that he supports Ukraine but that “countries that still use and produce cluster munitions need to stop doing so", adding that they are "barbaric weapons used mainly on civilian populations to spread fear and anxiety” - in essence James Bond focusing his ire against the tools from Q rather that fighting the bad guys. Surely NATO countries are not making tactical decisions based on the ill-informed opinions of a fictional character. He is clearly well intentioned but might not know the fate of Ukraine might be at risk if his influence prevents Ukraine from getting DPICM to evict the Russian invaders. And his voice carries weight within the global public. We would welcome a visit from Daniel Craig to Kyiv to discuss with General Zaluzhnyi and explain to him why he can’t have the ammunition he is requesting and why more Ukrainian soldiers and civilians must die needlessly.
Ukraine is fighting for western civilization and global democracy against the one enemy NATO was formed to defend against. The West will likely, eventually approve DPICM, but only if the lines remain stagnant for a long time and energy prices this winter continue to skyrocket. Every day they delay, more Ukrainians needlessly die. Follow the leadership of the Eastern European NATO countries. Giving DPICM to Ukraine is the moral imperative of the West to save Ukrainian lives and Ukraine’s sovereignty.