Obama renews calls for nuclear reductions, more attention to climate change

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, June 19 2013 12:07 p.m. MDT

US President Barack Obama, 2nd left, First Lady Michelle Obama, left, German chancellor Angela Merkel, second right, and her husband Joachim Sauer, right, arrive for the Dinner at Orangerie Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2013. US President Barack Obama is on a two-day visit to the German capital.

Jens Meyer, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

BERLIN — Appealing for a new citizen activism in the free world, President Barack Obama renewed his call Wednesday to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles and to confront climate change, a danger he called "the global threat of our time."

In a wide-ranging speech that enumerated a litany of challenges facing the world, Obama said he wanted to reignite the spirit that Berlin 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," 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 U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear weapons, saying it is possible to ensure American security and a strong deterrent while also limiting nuclear weapons.

Obama's address comes 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 addressed a crowd of about 4,500, reading from paper because the teleprompter wasn't working.

It was a stark contrast to the speech the president 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 Obama came to caution his audience not to fall into self-satisfaction.

"Complacency is not the character of great nations," Obama insisted.

"Today," he said, "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 Kennedy's famous Cold War speech in which he denounced communism with his declaration "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner). Obama, clearly aware that he was in Kennedy's 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."

Obama spoke repeatedly of seeking "peace with justice" around the world by confronting intolerance, poverty, Middle East conflicts and economic inequality.

But even before his speech, White House aides were drawing attention to his call for nuclear reductions, casting it as the centerpiece of his address.

"Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how distant that dream may be," Obama said.

"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," he said.

Signaling a new effort to pick up his delayed environmental agenda, Obama also issued a call to tackle climate change, an issue he has promised to make a priority since his 2008 presidential campaign.

"Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet," he said.

He said the U.S. has expanded renewable energy from clean sources and is doubling automobile fuel efficiency. But he said that without more action by all countries, the world faces what he called a grim alternative of more severe storms, famine, floods, vanishing coastlines and displaced refugees.

"This is the future we must avert," he said. "This is the global threat of our time."

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