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Obama Calls For Cuts In U.S., Russia Nuclear Arsenals

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he arrives with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to give his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate on Pariser Platz in Berlin on June 19.

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he arrives with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to give his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate on Pariser Platz in Berlin on June 19.

U.S. President Barack Obama has proposed that the United States and Russia cut their strategic nuclear warheads by a further one-third.

Obama made the proposal in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate on June 19 during his first visit to Berlin as president.

"I've determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third," Obama said, "and I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."

The proposed cuts would reduce U.S. and Russian arsenals to around 1,000 weapons. Under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that the Obama administration negotiated with Moscow during Obama's first term, the United States and Russia agreed to cut their strategic nuclear weapons stockpiles to 1,550 each.

In his speech, Obama also proposed reducing the number of U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

The speech was delivered at the same spot that John F. Kennedy famously declared his solidarity with the citizens of then-divided Berlin 50 years ago.

Moscow Looks On

Obama did not outline a timeline for the proposed cuts.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said Russia will not allow an imbalance of strategic nuclear deterrence.

Earlier, Putin's senior foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said the process of cutting down nuclear stockpiles should include other countries that posess such weapons. He said Obama had informed Putin of the proposed cuts after the two leaders met at a G8 summit in Northern Ireland on June 17.

Obama's call for reductions in the nuclear arsenals comes at a time of tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Russia has previously demanded changes to U.S. plans for a missile-defense system in Europe before returning to the nuclear agenda.

Russia opposes the U.S. missile-defense plans despite U.S. assurances that the shield is not aimed at Moscow.

Nuclear stockpile numbers are closely guarded secrets, but experts say no countries other than the United States and Russia are thought to have more than 300 warheads.

The United States has around 20 nuclear warheads stationed in Germany, down from about 200 when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

On Point

Obama said the United States will hold a summit in 2016 on securing nuclear materials around the world. He also called for a treaty to end production of fissile material.

The Brandenburg gate is a symbolic site steeped in Berlin's Cold War-era history.

There was Kennedy's celebrated "Ich bin ein Berliner" address at the gate in 1963, two years after the erection of the Berlin Wall separating Communist East Berlin from West Berlin.

President Ronald Reagan visited in 1987 and famously urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

This time, Obama paid tribute to the past.

"The fact that we can stand here today along the fault line where a city was divided speaks to an eternal truth: No wall can stand against the yearning of justice, the yearnings for freedom, the yearnings for peace that burn in the human heart," Obama said.

Obama has twice visited other parts of Germany as president, but this was his first visit to the capital.

In 2008, while still presidential candidate, he addressed some 200,000 near Berlin's Victory Column.


Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP, and RFE/RL
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