Published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Online on June 18, 2013. Article link here.
In his speech delivered on Wednesday at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, President Barack Obama reprised history and tried to evoke the solidarity that linked Germany and the United States during the Iron Curtain era. Coming almost exactly 50 years after President John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” address, Obama’s speech repeatedly touched on the resilience of those who fought against communism and for personal freedom throughout the Cold War. The speech also dealt with recent revelations about covert electronic surveillance by US intelligence (a particularly touchy subject in Germany, given its history of secret service abuses) and with the need for the international community to address global climate change.
Primarily, however, Obama used the address to voice his nuclear arms policy goals, asserting his support for a one-third reduction in deployed US strategic nuclear weapons and for “bold” cuts in US and Russian tactical weapons in Europe. His administration will work to build support for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the president said, and it will “call on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.”
The Bulletin asked an array of prominent nuclear weapons experts for their assessments of Obama’s Berlin speech. All of the appraisals agreed with the general aims Obama laid out in Berlin on nuclear weapons policy. A surprising number, however, questioned whether the president’s words could, would, or were even meant to be translated into action.