The Biden administration is preparing to supply Ukraine with controversial armor-piercing munitions containing depleted uranium, as revealed in a document reviewed by Reuters and confirmed by two U.S. officials.
These munitions, aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s defense against Russian tanks, are part of a forthcoming military aid package set to be disclosed within the next week.
The rounds are deployable from U.S. Abrams tanks, which are anticipated to be dispatched to Ukraine in the following weeks.
Sources indicate that the value of the forthcoming aid package could range from $240 million to $375 million, pending finalization of its contents.
The White House has not yet responded to inquiries for comment.
This development marks the inaugural instance of the United States sending depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine, possibly sparking controversy.
A prior decision by the Biden administration to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine had raised concerns about the risk these weapons pose to civilian populations.
The deployment of depleted uranium munitions is a topic of considerable debate.
Detractors, including the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, emphasize potential health hazards related to exposure to depleted uranium dust, including cancer and birth defects.
Depleted uranium, a by-product of uranium enrichment, is favored for its exceptional density, which enables rounds to effectively penetrate armor plating and self-ignite upon impact.
While it is radioactive, its radioactivity is notably lower than naturally occurring uranium. However, radioactive particles can persist for a significant period.
The United States previously employed depleted uranium munitions extensively during the Gulf Wars in 1990 and 2003, as well as during the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, contends that studies conducted in various regions indicate that the presence of depleted uranium residues in the environment doesn’t pose a significant radiological threat to affected populations.
Nonetheless, the introduction of radioactive material could further complicate Ukraine’s post-war cleanup efforts.
The country already contends with unexploded ordnance and anti-personnel mines from previous conflicts.
The prospective aid package, beyond the depleted uranium munitions, includes artillery, air defense missiles, and ground vehicles, reflecting Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive.
Funding authorization is facilitated through the Presidential Drawdown Authority, enabling the president to transfer materials and services from U.S. stocks without requiring congressional approval during emergencies.
The materials will be sourced from U.S. surplus inventory.
In response to the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, security assistance for Ukraine has exceeded $43 billion.