President Barack Obama returned to Berlin for the first time since he was elected president in 2008 today, where he delivered a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, which previously overlooked the Berlin Wall. His speech acknowledged not only how far the western world has come since the Cold War era, but also how far it has yet to go.
Addressing the greatest challenges the world faces today, he laid out a definition of responsible world citizenship. The first step, he said, to achieving world peace and prosperity is the elimination of nuclear weapons. "We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe," he said. He added:
This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.
He called on Russia to agree to cutting the two countries' deployed nuclear arsenals by a third while also reducing the number of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. But representatives from Moscow were not moved.
"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?" Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said, referring to the U.S.'s ongoing missile defense program. The Pentagon is set to spend an additional $1 billion to deploy ballistic missile interceptors in the Pacific to quell potential threats from North Korea.
And Obama also figures to face resistance in Congress. "A country whose conventional military strength has been weakened due to budget cuts ought not to consider further nuclear force reductions while turmoil in the world is growing," said Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
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