Obama calls for reducing US, Russian nuclear stockpiles

Posted at 11:04 AM, Jun 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-19 11:06:46-04

By Holly Yan and Tom Cohen, CNN

(CNN) — President Barack Obama followed in the footsteps of past U.S. leaders with a speech Wednesday at Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, where he said he would ask Russia to join the United States in slashing its supply of strategic nuclear warheads.

“I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures,” Obama said in the city that symbolized the East-West divide in the decades after World War II.

Repeating his campaign themes of equal opportunity and freedom for all, Obama said such ideals can provide the prosperity sought by all nations — especially longtime allies such as the United States and Germany.

In the city rife with Cold War history, Obama heralded democratic values that helped end communist control, declaring: “Our values won.”

He received a warm welcome on a sunny afternoon and told the crowd he would remove his jacket due to the heat.

“We can be a little more informal among friends,” said Obama, who perspired openly during the speech.

He said a review of the U.S. nuclear capability showed that stockpiles can be reduced by up to a third while maintaining the necessary deterrent.

Obama’s speech took place almost exactly 50 years after President John F. Kennedy delivered his “Ich bin ein Berliner” — or “I am a Berliner” — speech in the city that was divided by Western and Soviet occupations during the Cold War.

When Obama referred to Kennedy’s speech and repeated the famous phrase, the crowd cheered. He also quoted from Kennedy’s speech by calling on people to look beyond themselves and their own needs in contributing to a better society and world.

Berlin is also where President Ronald Reagan delivered a famous line to the Soviet Union in 1987: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Taking on another major issue, Obama called for a new global compact on climate change “before it’s too late.”

“That is our job. That is our task,” he said to cheers. “We have to get to work.”

Beyond New START

Obama’s latest proposals come two years after New START — a nuclear agreement between the United States and Russia — went into effect. New START, which stands for strategic arms reduction treaty, calls for each country to limit its nuclear warhead arsenal to 1,550 by the year 2018.

Obama’s proposals Wednesday would reduce both stockpiles by another one-third — to roughly 1,000 warheads for each country.

U.S. guidance on nukes

After New START was ratified, Obama ordered a detailed internal analysis of U.S. nuclear needs and what it would take to deter other countries from attacking, the White House said.

Obama has also said the United States will only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners, the White House said.

Pressuring Iran and North Korea

The United States will continue working to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, with specific pressure on Iran and North Korea, a senior administration official said.

Obama will also participate in the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands, and will host a Nuclear Security Summit in 2016 to work with other countries in securing nuclear materials and preventing nuclear terrorism, the official said.