The Biden administration is strongly considering approving the transfer of controversial cluster munition warheads to Ukraine, multiple people familiar with the matter told CNN, as the Ukrainians struggle to make major gains in their weeks-old counteroffensive.
"These would undoubtedly have a significant battlefield impact," a US official told CNN.
Officials told CNN that a final decision is expected soon from the White House, and that if approved, the weapons could be included in a new military aid package to Ukraine as soon as next month.
Ukrainian officials have been pushing the US to provide the munitions since last year, arguing that they would provide more ammunition for Western-provided artillery and rocket systems, and help narrow Russia's numerical superiority in artillery.
But the US had been reluctant to provide them because of the risk they could pose to civilians, and because some key US allies, including the UK, France, and Germany, are signatories to a ban on cluster munitions — weapons that scatter "bomblets" across large areas that can fail to explode on impact and can pose a long-term risk to anyone who encounters them, similar to landmines.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive launched earlier this month, however, has not made as much progress as US officials hoped it would by this point, with Russian lines of defense proving more well-fortified than anticipated.
And it is not clear whether the heavy amount of artillery ammunition the Ukrainians have been expending day-to-day is sustainable if the counteroffensive drags on, officials and military analysts said.
Cluster munitions, which the US has stockpiled in large numbers since phasing them out in 2016, could help fill that gap, officials said.
Administration officials also believe they have managed to alleviate some allies' concerns about the US transferring the munitions, officials said.
The US official noted that the weapon would not be a new capability for Ukraine. Both the Ukrainians and the Russians have used cluster bombs since Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, and more recently, Ukrainian forces have begun using Turkish-provided cluster munitions on the battlefield.