President Obama on Wednesday called for Russia and the United States to each eliminate hundreds of warheads from their fielded long-range nuclear arsenals. If Moscow agrees, the cuts to a new ceiling of roughly 1,000 weapons on each side would constitute a one-third reduction below currently agreed ceilings under the 2011 New START agreement.
Speaking in Berlin, the U.S. leader built on the themes of his iconic 2009 speech in Prague, this time overtly linking a reduction in weapons of mass destruction to issues that have since moved to the forefront on the world stage, thanks in large part to the Middle Eastern "Arab spring." Most recently, popular demands for increased democracy and freedom have spread to Turkey, Washington's NATO ally.
"Our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet," Obama said to an audience of 4,000 invitees assembled at the eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate. "I'd suggest that peace with justice begins with the example we set here at home."
"We cannot shrink from our role of advancing the values we believe in," he said. "Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how distant that dream may be."
"I believe that this is the first time a U.S. president has discussed nuclear weapons in the context of peace and justice," Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, told Global Security Newswire. "Since the use of nuclear weapons would be a profound threat to peace and justice, this is not only appropriate, but long overdue."
"After a comprehensive review I have determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third," Obama said during the policy address, as reported by Reuters.
"We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe," NBC News quoted him as saying. He added Washington wants to work with Moscow "to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."
The proposed new cuts would number approximately 500, taken from warheads ready for delivery from aircraft and aboard long-range missiles based on submarines and ground installations, the New York Times reported. The two countries hold thousands of additional nuclear warheads in storage.
A bilateral strategic arms control agreement now commits each country to deploy no more than 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018.