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Obama urges Russia to agree nuclear weapons cuts

© AFP

Video by Olivia SALAZAR WINSPEAR

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-06-20

US President Barack Obama urged Russia on Wednesday to agree to cut nuclear arms by up to one third in a speech given at Germany’s historic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, 50 years after JFK’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

President Barack Obama wants to reduce deployed nuclear weapons by up to a third and revive negotiations with Russia to “move beyond Cold War nuclear postures”, he said in a speech on Wednesday in Berlin.

“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,” he said.

“I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures,” he said, speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate which once stood alongside the wall that divided communist East Berlin and the capitalist West.

But on the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of Moscow’s concerns about anti-missile shields that the United States and NATO are deploying, and said the development of high-precision, long-range conventional weapons could upset the strategic balance.

“These weapons are approaching the level of strategic nuclear arms in terms of their strike capability. States possessing such weapons strongly increase their offensive potential,” Putin said at a meeting on defence issues in the Russian city of St Petersburg.

Russia, which signed a nuclear arms reduction agreement with the Obama administration known as New START in 2010, has reiterated that further cuts in strategic nuclear arms should not be made without measures to allay its concerns about other weapons.

The two countries have already cut strategic nuclear weapons stocks to the 1,550 level since signing the New START treaty. A one-third cut in the arsenals would take them to the 1,000 weapons mark.

‘Shot at the history books’

Putin did not mention Obama’s speech, which began shortly after he spoke. His foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, when asked about reports that Obama would propose cuts, said: “It’s necessary to bring other countries that possess nuclear weapons into the process.”

“Now it is necessary to look at this issue more broadly and, naturally, to enlarge the circle of participants in possible contacts on this,” Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow.

FRANCE 24 international affairs editor Armen Georgian said Obama’s speech was largely rhetorical.

“This speech was the kind he can no longer get away with making in the US; using language of hope and change – it was a throwback to his pre-election days in 2008 and he enjoyed an enthusiastic reception.

“But the speech was very thin on policy. If he does make a breakthrough on nuclear with Russia, then it will be a historic achievement. But he made no really concrete proposals today on how to take things further. The speech was a shot at the history books.”

Obama's address came nearly 50 years after John F. Kennedy's famous Cold War speech in Berlin, when he famously said “Ich bin ein Berliner,” in a pledge not to abandon the citizens of the divided city.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)
 

Date created : 2013-06-19

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