Obama: Cut Nuclear Warheads

Posted at 10:26 AM, Jun 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-19 10:26:47-04


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

“Hello, Berlin,” Obama said twice to cheers, then told the crowd standing in bright sunshine he would remove his jacket due to the heat. “We can be a little more informal among friends.”

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

Obama also planned to outline his goal to reduce U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the administration official said. The president hopes to work with NATO allies on proposals toward that goal.

It’s all part of Obama’s “vision of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” the official said.

“We will seek to negotiate these reductions with Russia to continue to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures,” the official added. 

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.

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

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.

“The president has determined that we can ensure our security and that of our allies and partners … while safely pursuing up to a one-third reduction in deployed strategic nuclear warheads below the New START treaty level,” the administration official 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, the 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.

Nuclear deterrence could restrain N. Korea, Iran