Written by Dr. Binoy Kampmark
Should they be taking them? Ukraine is desperate for any bit of warring materiel its armed forces can lay their hands on, but depleted uranium shells would surely not be a model example of use. And yet, the UK, in an act of killing with kindness, is happy to fork them out to aid the cause against the Russians, despite the scandals, the alleged illnesses, and environmental harms.
An outline of the measure was provided by Minister of state for defence Baroness Annabel Goldie’s written answer to a question posed by Lord Hylton: “Alongside our granting of a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, we will be providing ammunition including armour piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium. Such rounds are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles.”
The response from the Kremlin was swift. “If all this happens,” warned Russian President Vladimir Putin, “Russia will have to respond accordingly, given that the West collectively is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component.” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also foresaw “nuclear collision”.
The statement from Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Russian lower house, shifted the focus from potential nuclear catastrophe to the field of medical consequences, reminding his fellow members that the use of such ammunition by the US in former Yugoslavia and Iraq had led to “radioactive contamination and a sharp rise in oncological cases.”
News networks were left trying to convey a picture to the public, much of it skimpy on the perilous consequences arising from using such munitions. The BBC’s characteristic language of understatement notes that such uranium, stripped of much of its radioactive content, “makes weapons more powerful, but it is feared those weapons could be a threat to people in areas where they are used.”
Sky News had its own benign interpretation of the dangers, suggesting that DU, in emitting alpha particles, did not “have enough energy to go through skin, so exposure to the outside of the body is not considered a serious hazard.” An admission as to the dangers had to follow. “It can be a serious health hazard, however, if it is swallowed or inhaled.”
The US Department of Veterans Affairs outlines a few points on the matter in greater detail. “When a projectile made with DU penetrates a vehicle, small particles of DU can be formed and breathed in or swallowed by service members in the struck vehicle. Small DU fragments can also scatter and become embedded in muscle and soft tissue.”
Since their use in the Gulf War (1991), the Kosovo War (1999), the Iraq War (2003) and Afghanistan, the curriculum vitae of such weapons has become increasingly blotchy. The use of such shells has been contentious to the point of being criminal, said to be carcinogenic and a cause of birth defects. A study examining a civilian population sample from Eastern Afghanistan, published in 2005, revealed that “contamination in Afghanistan with a source consistent with natural uranium has resulted in total concentrations up to 100 times higher than the normal range for various geographic and environmental areas throughout the world.”
Subsequent field research, notably in Iraq, has found instances of serious birth defects, including congenital heart disease, paralysis, missing limbs and neurological problems. While some of these outcomes can be attributable to other activities of the US military and its allies, the role of DU looms large.
The nature of such weaponry is also indiscriminate. As a law firm representing US war veterans acknowledges, those involved in campaigns, notably in Iraq, “may have been exposed to depleted uranium as a result of being in a vehicle that was hit by a projectile, being exposed to burning depleted uranium, or salvaging the wreckage of a vehicle that was hit by a depleted uranium projectile.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs has also admitted that DU is a “potential health hazard if it enters the body, such as through embedded fragments, contaminated wounds, and inhalation or ingestion.” It prefers, however, to treat each claim for disability that might have been the result of DU poisoning “on a case-by-case basis.”
The claimed lack of unequivocal evidence linking such projectiles to adverse effects on the environment and humans has been a consistent theme in investigations – and a boon for militaries using them. A committee of review established by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that covered, among other things, the use of these shells by NATO forces in the Kosovo campaign, proved less than satisfactory.
In recommending that no investigation be commenced regarding the bombing campaign – hardly a surprise – the members had to concede that NATO’s responses to any queries were “couched in general terms and failed to address specific incidents.” The Committee also found no consensus on whether the “use of such projectiles violate general principles of the law applicable to use of weapons in armed conflict.”
The UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights proved more forthright on the issue, claiming in a resolution that DU are weapons with indiscriminate effects and should therefore be prohibited under international humanitarian law. The UN General Assembly’s latest resolution on the matter, however, suggested a distinct lack of backbone, noting that “studies conducted so far by relevant international organizations have not provided a detailed enough account of the magnitude of the potential long-term effects on human beings and the environment of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium.”
Little wonder, given such a muddled frame of mind, that the use of DU projectiles has persisted with some relish, despite an avalanche of studies warning of their dangers. Nature abhors a vacuum and fills it accordingly with the mean and ghastly. In November 2015, 5000 rounds of DU ammunition were used in an air raid on oil trucks used by Islamic State forces despite assurances from the US military that it had stopped using such weapons. As to whether it will supply Kyiv with this hazardous product remains unclear – the Pentagon is proving reticent on the subject.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has attacked the UK’s decision. Its General Secretary, Kate Hudson, outlined her concerns in a statement: “CND has repeatedly called for the UK government to place an immediate moratorium on the use of depleted uranium weapons and to fund long-term studies into their health and environmental impacts.”
Short of a clear treaty on the subject, preferably one with teeth, this is much wishful thinking. The Ukrainian forces, however, should give the whole matter a second thought: the effects of such weapons will not distinguish between the users, the targets, and the civilians. In the long run, it will also prove unsparing to the environment, which promises to be richly contaminated by the toxicity of such lingering munitions.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He currently lectures at RMIT University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Russian Tactical Nuclear Weapons In Belarus – Escalation Or Legitimate Response?
- London To Arm Ukrainian Forces With Depleted Uranium Shells
The Junta of Zelensky does not care. It continues the work of genocide in the Donbass started by its forebears in 2014. What does it care if the people in this region and the land becomes contaminated? Not a toss!
Dear no learner Erikovitch. A Junta is three persons.
You can be 100% sure that they have already received them and already used them in the past
They are esdsier to find, when they are hot.
Anyone promoting or actually using DU in weapons is not a human being; they are animals!!!
Most likely they are made against animals.
depleted uraniam by azov faggots = sledgehammer executions by fagner = both gay and evil = filthy juden
A legitimate responds to preserve freedom and peace in our free and civilised part of the world.
“Think the unthinkable and think big, Mr. Kissinger”.
Don’t push your luck. There are the same arguments on the other side , the Russians , who also want to live civilized in peace and freedom (without steady threats and encircles by the NATO) and who are also able to respond to each escalation. The west ist playing a hazardous game with them , hoping the other side is only bluffing and will not dare to use their power. But what if not : Kissinger is old and far away from the disaster in Europe (to think the unthinkable) , but we will pay a high price for this stupidity.
So we bend over or what? NO WAY.
Europe now is one and Russia is not europe. No solutions of ours is from there.
We make no threats to Rustica. We also mot collapased the USSR Empire,whcih for the second time within 100 years continues the agression to us all the way to west of DDR.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
They not even accept 141 UN states recommend Russian retreat from Ukraine. They are supportes by Eritrea, Mali, Cuba, North Korea, Lukanshenko and Assad.
They have has every possibilities for devlloping the annexed states from WW2. They have not. We try.
In that are an agreement that Belerus and Ukraine should only be connected with us as affiliates or less and able to defend themselves.
Thts what we help Ukraine is all about. Some 17,8% added Russians should not run 83% Ukrainians. And the Russians there should not continue in the spirit of krustjov being a state in the state.
Russia IS Europe. Look at the map. Europe is a small overcrowded peninsula or the great Russia, Asia by extension.
What this article does not mention, is that in part of the world, where depleted uranium was used, cancer rates as much as 20 times (not percent) higher.
This affects of the use of depleted uranium linger, affecting not just those who live, but also the combatants from both sides who are exposed.
Thats not correct. On Your body is safe. The raise of cancer is highly connected to meny kinds of explosives. Fx nitrogene gasses.
Exposed dont cross the skin. You has to eat it or take it into Your lungs.
Jens , you don’t know it exactly , there is no 100% statistics , neither pro nor contra. But much circumstantial evidence , that the weapons are really poisonous , for the soldiers and for the civilians. Moreover , it is the next escalation in direction dirty bombs , tactical nuclear weapons etc. This time your enemy is not Iraq , Yugoslavia or Afghanistan , but the country which really has the WMD.
There is no HAT451 version at all. The same method is used for several according Covid.
If You die and have Covid too, You dont die by Covid.
And I have been familiar with DU since our danish tanks used irridium in Yugoslavia.
I know almost all about statistics can be made. They can make some bones to a horse if You want to.
If You have very cold rain as here, you might have time to look up.
Compared ro how many dead there are some light sniffing and eating dirt is nothing. It dont harm if you have skin or for that matter clothe on your body. Most people has unless they are ready to become food for cannibals.
Drop missiles on Ukraine logistics centers before they reach the battlefield, it will make them think twice about welcoming toxic weapons as support.
As usual You are so far behind from the real world. Most logistical centers from the start has been decentralized.
Many are mobile too such a military communication centers. Very much is by IT. They by that dont have many in the centers as in Your old days too.
Over Nipre are only 18 bridges. I not understand why theu\y still exist today.
If it’s a red line, then it should be treated as such, in no uncertain terms.
Cancelling diplomatic relations with the supplier (since they seem so keen to push the boundaries), will send a strongly-unworded message
And the other way??? How do we comunicate with people having no ears, no eyes and just a big mouth hiding there is no brain behind it?
Should we bend over? I dont think so.
And so far we have been sending only for own defence to ukras. Rusticans dont understand that and are sliding. So do we.
If they love tanks, many kinds of armed vehicles, missiles, drones, mines handfled by well educated ukrainiens its comming in in stacks as routine.
It might be added bunches of Migs as well. And soon the ukras will donated all kind of ammo and bombs for them too.
tempting to try to remove some TV antennas in Moscow where the fat rat Russians live. hey only care about Russia as their private property. Our proletars has a life.
Proletars don’t have a life, anywhere.
Yes, people care about what they perceive as being “their” although all we really have is the time on the Earth…
We have upgraded all by free schools, free educations added wellfare in something for something.
So that group hardly exist.
And we are blamed for equal right for gender, LGBTs and criminals too.
The results: In top for most things in Denmark. But of course we are not You and even blamed for that.
DU is just a cheap replacement for tungsten in AP shells, and on impact they vaporize and radioactively pollute everything, which is why the vast majority of countries in the world don’t use them. The only countries that do use them are countries used to fighting wars far from their own environment, who don’t give a shit about polluting other peoples lands. In this particular case, as they could easily send equally effective non-DU APFSDS shells (NATO has loads of those), the main purpose is clearly to pollute Russian soil, which makes it an act of nuclear terrorism, against the number one nuclear power in the world. Stupid doesn’t even start to describe it…