Biden Administration Set to Supply Depleted Uranium Rounds to Ukraine: Report

TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on the So

The Biden administration is reportedly set to follow Britain’s lead in supplying Ukraine with depleted uranium rounds to arm a swath of American tanks planned to be delivered to Kyiv in the Autumn.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, citing American administration sources, the Biden government is planning on providing Ukraine with depleted uranium rounds to equip the Abrams tanks expected to be sent into the conflict in the coming months.

The decision, the paper reported, came after months of an internal debate within the White House, with the Pentagon, in particular, pushing for the ammunition to be sent to the Zelensky government.

The U.S. military first began using depleted uranium en masse during the first Iraq War in the early 1990s. Due to its high density, the material has been used for tank armour as well as for some bullets and anti-tank rounds, with it being highly effective in penetrating armoured vehicles and tanks.

Depleted uranium rounds are produced as a byproduct of the enrichment of the radioactive material, however, it does not generate a nuclear reaction. Yet, there are health and environmental concerns surrounding the rounds, with the U.S. government admitting that depleted uranium poses a “potential health hazard if it enters the body, such as through embedded fragments, contaminated wounds, and inhalation or ingestion.”

A review from Harvard University also said: “Depleted uranium may pose a risk to both soldiers and local civilian populations. When ammunition made from depleted uranium strikes a target, the uranium turns into dust that is inhaled by soldiers near the explosion site. The wind then carries dust to surrounding areas, polluting local water and agriculture.”

NATO nations that operate the rounds nevertheless insist the tank-busting rounds are ‘safe’ and claims by Russia that the use of depleted uranium tank-busting rounds in Ukraine is causing a “radioactive cloud” to spread over Europe have been fact-checked by Western intelligence agencies.

According to the WSJ report, Biden administration deliberations on sending Ukraine depleted uranium rounds began in January after the White House approved providing Kyiv with 31 Abrams tanks as a part of a wider European agreement to supply tanks to Ukraine. Members of the Ukrainian military are currently being trained at bases in Germany on how to use the M1A1 tanks, which are expected to be sent into battle by the Autumn.

A senior administration official was cited by the paper as saying that there are ‘no major obstacles’ in the government approving the shipment of depleted uranium rounds.

Scott Boston, a defence analyst at the RAND Corporation, a think tank closely associated with the defence industry in the United States, said of the rounds: “The projectile hits like a freight train… It is very long and very dense. So it puts a great deal of kinetic energy on a specific point on an enemy armour array.”

“Tank-on-tank fighting hasn’t seemed to be very common in this war,” Boston said. “But to the extent that it happens, we’d like the Ukrainians to win at it.”

The reported decision to send depleted uranium to Ukraine comes after the United Kingdom approved a shipment of such rounds to supply ammunition for the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks that it is supplying Kyiv with.

Russia, for its part, warned the UK that giving Ukraine depleted uranium rounds is a move “fraught with risks of further escalation of the conflict.”

President Vladimir Putin warned of potential retaliation, saying: “If all this happens, Russia will have to respond accordingly, I’m talking about the fact the west is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component.”

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