Sullivan, Murkowski support Biden administration’s move to send cluster munitions to Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan said they support the Biden administration’s decision to supply Ukraine with cluster munitions, which the country has started using against Russian forces.

Cluster munitions are weapons that break apart and spread smaller bomblets over a large area. The Biden administration announced it would send the munitions to Ukraine as part of a new military aid package earlier this month. The weapons are banned by over 100 countries, including NATO allies like France and Germany, who signed a 2008 treaty not to use, transfer or stockpile them. Human rights advocates and some congressional Democrats have decried the weapons since they can fail to explode and pose a long-term risk to civilians.

Joe Biden has said it was a “difficult decision” to supply Ukraine with the munitions. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the U.S. deferred the decision “as long as we could” and pointed to the harm to Ukrainian civilians posed as the war with Russia continues.

“I think it’s important if Ukrainians have demonstrated a need for a weapons system, that it’s important for us to help them win. The quickest way to end the humanitarian disaster, which is the Ukraine war with so many civilians being killed, is to win the war and stop Russian aggression,” Sen. Sullivan said in an interview Thursday. “So I supported that decision.”

Murkowski visited Ukraine in April and met with top leaders, who she said made clear that they need cluster munitions.

“We had a great deal of conversation about cluster munitions, and it was repeated time and time and time again, that this will be something that could help make a difference,” Murkowski said Wednesday. “I want to help make a difference for the people of Ukraine.”

Both senators said cluster munitions provided by the U.S. have a significantly smaller rate of unexploded munitions than those Russia is currently using in Ukraine. Defense officials said the U.S. would not transfer munitions with a so-called “dud rate” over of 2.35%. Russian cluster munitions reportedly have a dud rate of as high as 40%.


Murkowski and Sullivan separately traveled to Lithuania this month around the annual NATO Summit, where they reaffirmed their support for Ukraine and its fight against Russia’s invasion.

Sullivan, who attended the summit last week, spent much of the trip pressing NATO members to spend the agreed-upon 2% of their GDP on military expenses. He said spending under 2% by other NATO countries could contribute to wavering U.S. support for Ukraine.

Last year, only seven member countries directed at least 2% of their GDP to defense spending. This month, the 31 allies agreed to a new pledge to spend “at least” 2% of GDP on the military. Biden has been supportive of upping allies’ military spending, and it was a key issue for former President Donald Trump.

Sullivan, a Marine Corps reservist and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spearheaded a letter to Biden signed by 35 senators urging him to call on NATO countries to up their spending. He also introduced an amendment reinforcing the military spending obligations which passed the Senate unanimously last year.

“I am a huge supporter of NATO. I am a supporter for military assistance to Ukraine so they can defeat Putin,” Sullivan said. “But if the NATO countries don’t end up hitting 2%, year after year, what it does is it makes Americans — the people we represent as senators — start to say, ‘Hey, I’m tired of this. Maybe, maybe we shouldn’t support Ukraine. Maybe longer-term NATO isn’t worth it because the other countries aren’t pulling their weight.’”

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Reporter Riley Rogerson is a full-time reporter for the ADN based in Washington, D.C. Her position is supported by Report for America, which is working to fill gaps in reporting across America and to place a new generation of journalists in community news organizations around the country. Report for America, funded by both private and public donors, covers up to 50% of a reporter’s salary. It’s up to Anchorage Daily News to find the other half, through local community donors, benefactors, grants or other fundraising activities.

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Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at rrogerson@adn.com.