Connect to share and comment

Obama speaks in Berlin, urges Russia to cut nuclear arms cache (VIDEO)

President Barack Obama is in Berlin for the first time in his presidency. The audience he addressed was much smaller than the 200,000 crowd he spoke to as a senator in 2008.

Obama berlin germany speechEnlarge
In this handout photo provided by the German Government Press Office (BPA), US President Barack Obama and German President Joachim Gauck wave to the media waiting outside the Bellevue Palace on June 19, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Obama is visiting Berlin for the first time during his presidency and speaking close to the 50th anniversary of the historic speech by then-President John F. Kennedy in Berlin in 1963, during which he proclaimed the famous sentence: Ich bin ein Berliner. (Jesco Denzel/Bundesregierung/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama spoke in Berlin for the first time in his presidency Wednesday, after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following the G8 summit in Ireland.

Obama's visit honors the 50th anniversary of former President John F. Kennedy's June 1963 speech in the capital, when he endeared himself to Germans with one line: "Ich bin ein Berliner" — "I am a Berliner." 

"It is an honor and a deep pleasure to welcome you to this place that is so symbolic to our country," Merkel said in front of the Brandenburg Gate, an 18th century monument of German unity and European peace where both former US presidents Kennedy and Ronald Reagan delivered key addresses. 

Obama gave a much-lauded speech in 2008 at the base of the Victory Column in the Tiergarten in Berlin to a starstruck crowd of 200,000 while he was still campaigning for the presidency, but this is his first return to Germany since his inauguration.

Obama began his speech by taking off his jacket, after Merkel commented on the heat of the day, saying "we can be a little more informal as friends." 

Here, the key points of the president's address

Nuclear arms reduction

The president appealed to nations to scale back their nuclear programs, saying that "so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe."

He said though progress has been made, Russia and the US were capable of further reducing their nukes by up to one-third of their current capacity, saying that the two nations should "move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."

America will host a summit in 2016 to draft a treaty to reduce nuclear arms production around the world, Obama said. 

The White House also released a fact sheet on its nuclear weapons strategy Wednesday in light of Obama's address. 

Climate change and renewable energy

Obama also discussed climate change, calling it "the global danger of our time."

He urged nations to make a plan to reduce carbon emissions and wasteful energy production, and also said that the international community must work to end the AIDS epidemic.

"People often come together in places like these to remember history — not to make it," Obama said in the opening of his address. "Sometimes there can be a sense that the great challenges have somehow passed. And that brings with it a temptation to turn inward — to think of our own pursuits, and not the sweep of history; to believe that we’ve settled history’s accounts." 

"Complacency is not the character of great nations. ... The tests of our time demand that same fighting spirit," he added. 

The struggling economy

Obama emphasized the strength of the alliance between the US and Europe as central to the global economy and the safety of the world. 

"Our alliance is the foundation of global security," he said. "Our trade and our commerce is the engine of our global economy. Our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet. When Europe and America lead with our hopes instead of our fears, we do things that no other nations can do, no other nations will do." 

He also pushed for comprehensive economic solutions, as many of Europe's nations continue to battle high inflation and unemployment and struggle to meet goals set by the Troika.

"We have to have economies that are working for all people, not just those at the very top," he said to applause. 

Immigration and same-sex equality

"I'd suggest that peace and justice begins with the example we set at home," Obama said, touching on hot-button issues like same-sex equality and immigration which have made headlines in the US and in Europe. He said both gays and undocumented immigrants were deserving of equality and "the pursuit of their own happiness." 

"As long as walls exist in our hearts to separate us for those [different] than us, we're going to have to work harder together to bring those walls down," Obama said.

NSA surveillance

Obama made note of the ongoing scandal surrounding the NSA's data monitoring program, saying that there needs to be a balance between security and privacy, but he defended the NSA's the efforts nonetheless.

Here is an excerpt from Obama's speech:

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters in Berlin spun Obama's 2008 campaign slogan to reflect their anger over the recently-revealed NSA data monitoring program. Here, some of the best tweets:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130619/obama-speaks-berlin-will-urge-russia-cut-nuclear