News Column

Obama to Call for U.S.- Russia Nuclear Arms Cuts

June 19, 2013
Obama

President Barack Obama's foreign-policy speech in Berlin Wednesday will call for additional U.S.-Russia nuclear-arms cuts, administration officials said.

He is expected to say Washington and Moscow can shrink their nuclear arsenals by up to one-third beyond cuts mandated under the 2010 New Start, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, without hurting deterrence or capabilities, the officials told The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

A one-third cut would give Washington and Moscow slightly more than 1,000 warheads each, down from New Start's 1,550 mandate.

That reduction would still leave both countries with more than enough warheads to deter any current or future adversary, the U.S. officials told the Journal.

Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin about wanting to hold U.S.-Russian talks on the reduction plans while at the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, a senior administration official told the Journal without saying what Putin's response was.

"Our hope and expectation would be that, in the coming weeks or months, we'll get folks together to start that conversation. But in terms of a timeline, we're not there," the official said.

Obama is also expected to announce he will host a final nuclear security summit meeting in the United States just before he leaves office, the Times said.

Those summits, held every two years since 2010, have focused on international cooperative measures to protect nuclear materials and keep facilities safe from terrorist groups.

Obama's speech, to begin at 3 p.m. (9 a.m. EDT), will be given at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, a former city gate that is now one of Germany's best-known landmarks.

It is also the site of important addresses by past U.S. presidents.

Fifty years ago next week, President John F. Kennedy spoke at the gate about democracy vs. communism.

"Freedom has many difficulties, and democracy is not perfect," he said. "But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us," referring to the Berlin Wall, built in 1961 and torn down in 1990.

Kennedy's Jan. 26, 1963, speech is known for a phrase he said in German, "Ich bin ein Berliner," or "I am a citizen of Berlin."

When Kennedy stood at the gate, the Soviet Union hung large red banners across it to prevent him looking into communist East Berlin.

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the gate and called on Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to demolish the Berlin Wall.

"General-Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate!" Reagan said. "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Calling for a significant cut in the size of the nuclear arsenal will lend Obama's remarks historical significance, the Journal said.


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