President Barack Obama is calling on Russia to agree to reduce its strategic nuclear warhead arsenal by one-third beyond the levels set by the New START Treaty. In a speech on the east side of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, Obama said the United States would agree to do the same, The Washington Post reports.
"I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures," Obama said. "...These are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice."
Obama also directed the Defense Department to strengthen its non-nuclear capabilities, to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, and to reduce the role of nuclear launches in contingency planning.
New START calls for the United States and Russia to cut their arsenals to 1,550 nuclear warheads by 2018. Obama's proposal, which would bring that number down to about 1,000, comes at a time when tensions between the United States and Russia over the situation in Syria have been on stark display.
Obama made the proposal as part of a much-anticipated speech that was suffused with Cold War history and sought to shake Western nations from complacency at a time of economic hardship at home. Then-President Ronald Reagan used a nearby Brandenburg Gate backdrop in 1987 to call on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." Only Obama was on the east side of the gate, once communist territory.