U.S. President Barack Obama set forth his vision for advancing toward a world free of nuclear weapons in a speech Wednesday at the historic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Obama said he will seek to reduce deployed nuclear weapons by up to a third and renew talks with Russia to “move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.”
He said the cuts in nuclear weapons can be made while at the same time ensuring the security of the U.S. and its allies, and also maintaining “a strong and credible strategic deterrent.”
The proposal would mean the United States and Russia would cut their number of strategic nuclear warheads by up to one third below the level they agreed to in the New START Treaty. That agreement, signed in 2010, calls for the two countries to reduce their arsenal to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads by 2018.
Shortly before Obama delivered his speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying his government would not permit “disturbances to the system of strategic deterrence or a decrease in the effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear forces.”
Obama returned repeatedly throughout the speech to the theme of peace with justice, praising the free enterprise system as opposed to the kind of top down economic planning pursued by the Communist government of the former East Germany.
He warned Western countries not to turn inward or become”complacent after having won the Cold War, and said they must meet a number of challenges, including global warming, poverty and the spread of AIDS.
He also said he would redouble his efforts to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Brandenburg Gate was the site of two notable addresses by former U.S. leaders. In 1963, president John F. Kennedy declared himself a citizen of a divided Berlin in his speech, and in 1987, president Ronald Reagan demanded that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall.
Before the address, Obama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks that covered, among other things, U.S. Internet surveillance.
Ms. Merkel said that while enemies and opponents can use the Internet to threaten democracy, she had stressed to the U.S. president that there should be balance and proportionality between the need to monitor threats and to preserve a liberal order.
Obama called the U.S. Internet surveillance program circumscribed and narrow, insisting that U.S. intelligence agencies are not rifling through ordinary emails of German citizens or American citizens or anyone else and that the Internet and telephone surveillance programs are under federal court supervision.
This is Obama’s first visit to Germany as president. He came to Berlin in 2008 as a presidential candidate, but was denied permission to make a speech at the Brandenburg Gate.