Thursday 21 September 2017

Obama wants nukes cut by a third

President Barack Obama speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (AP)
President Barack Obama speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (AP)
US President Barack Obama waves to the audience after his speech (AP)
Mr Obama, seated, and Mr Gauck signed a guestbook at Schloss Bellevue to mark the US president's visit (AP)

In an appeal for a new citizen activism in the free world, president Barack Obama has renewed his call to reduce US and Russian nuclear stockpiles and to confront climate change, a danger he called "the global threat of our time."

In a wide-ranging speech in Berlin that enumerated a litany of challenges facing the world, Mr Obama said he wanted to reignite the spirit the city displayed when it fought to reunite itself during the Cold War.

"Today's threats are not as stark as they were half a century ago, but the struggle for freedom and security and human dignity, that struggle goes on," Mr Obama said at the city's historic Brandenburg Gate under a bright, hot sun. "And I come here to this city of hope because the test of our time demands the same fighting spirit that defined Berlin a half-century ago."

The president called for a one-third reduction of US and Russian nuclear stockpiles, saying it is possible to ensure American security and a strong deterrent while also limiting nuclear weapons.

Mr Obama's address came nearly 50 years after John F. Kennedy's famous Cold War speech in this once-divided city. Shedding his jacket and at times wiping away beads of sweat, the president stood behind a bullet-proof pane and read his remarks from text before a crowd of about 6,000.

It was a stark contrast to the speech he delivered in the city in 2008, when he summoned a crowd of 200,000 to embrace his vision for American leadership. Whereas that speech soared with his ambition, this time Mr Obama came to caution his audience not to fall into self-satisfaction.

"We must acknowledge that there can at times be a complacency among our Western democracies," he said. "Today people often come together in places like this to remember history, not to make it. Today we face no concrete walls or barbed wire."

The speech came just one week shy of the anniversary of President Kennedy's famous Cold War speech in which he denounced communism with his declaration "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner). Mr Obama, clearly aware that he was in an historic shadow, asked his audience to heed the former president's message.

"If we lift our eyes as President Kennedy calls us to do, then we'll recognize that our work is not yet done," he said. "So we are not only citizens of America or Germany, we are also citizens of the world."

The president has previously called for reductions to nuclear stockpiles. But by addressing the issue in a major foreign policy speech, Mr Obama signalled a desire to rekindle an issue that was a centrepiece of his early first-term national security agenda.

Press Association

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