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Disarmament

In Berlin, Obama proposes cuts to nuclear arsenals

US President Barack Obama has called on Russia to join him in reducing nuclear stockpiles by one-third. Obama made the proposal during his first speech in Berlin as US president.

US President Barack Obama (R) delivers a speech at the Brandenburg Gate on June 19, 2013 in Berlin. Barack Obama will walk in John F. Kennedy's footsteps this week on his first visit to Berlin as US president, but encounter a more powerful and sceptical Germany in talks on trade and secret surveillance practices. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Obama in Berlin Rede Brandenburger Tor

Speaking in front of the iconic Brandenburg Gate, Obama told an audience of 6,000 in the German capital on Wednesday that he wants to "seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."

"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," the US president said.

US-Russian nuclear stockpiles are currently governed by the "New Start Treaty." Under that agreement, the former Cold War foes must reduce their stockpiles to 1,550 warheads on a maximum of 700 launchers, either missiles or long-range bombers, by 2018.

Obama's proposal in Berlin on Wednesday would shrink the US total to between 1,000 and 1,100 warheads. The US president also said that Washington would host a summit in 2016 aimed at securing poorly guarded nuclear materials around the world.

In 2009, Obama delivered a speech in the Czech capital, Prague, in which he laid out the vision of a "world without nuclear weapons."

Russia dismissive of Obama proposal

Moscow, for its part, has reacted negatively to Obama's latest proposal on nuclear reductions, citing US plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe.

"How can we take the idea of strategic nuclear weapons reductions seriously when the United States is building up its ability to intercept these strategic nuclear weapons?" Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.

"These things clearly do not go together," he continued. "It's obvious that Russia's highest political leadership cannot take such proposals seriously."

Obama's speech in Berlin came nearly 50 years to the day after former President John F. Kennedy spoke in West Berlin. Kennedy famously declared solidarity with West Berlin in the face of Soviet encirclement, declaring "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner). 

slk/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)