News Column

Obama Visits Berlin on Diplomacy Tour

June 19, 2013

President Obama began his day in Berlin with meetings with Germany's president and chancellor in advance of a foreign policy speech at the Brandenburg Gate.

Obama first met with President Joachim Gauck at Schloss Belevue, his official residence. The two approached a group of school children waving miniature flags of both countries and Obama posed with some some, saying, "Everyone turn around and say 'cheese.'"

Later Obama meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Chancellery. The two shook hands and posed for pictures before entering the building for their bilateral discussions.

Obama was preparing to deliver a foreign policy speech administration aides said would call for additional U.S.-Russia nuclear-arms cuts.

In advance of the speech at Brandenburg Gate, administration officials said he was expected to say Washington and Moscow can shrink their nuclear arsenals by a third beyond cuts mandated by the 2010 New Start, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, without hurting deterrence or capabilities, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported.

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 broached the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, a senior administration official told the Journal without disclosing Putin's response.

"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.

Fifty years ago next week, President John F. Kennedy spoke at the Brandenburg Gate about democracy versus 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."

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!"




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