BERLIN: President Barack Obama will on Wednesday propose the United States and Russia cut strategic nuclear warheads by a third and reduce tactical nuclear arsenals in Europe, a US official said.
Obama, who will make the proposals in a major speech in Berlin, will also commit to attending a nuclear security summit in The Hague next year, and to holding a similar meeting in the final year of his presidency in 2016.
A senior US official said Obama had determined the United States and its allies could maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent by pursuing “up to a one-third reduction in deployed strategic nuclear warheads below the New START Treaty level.
“We will seek to negotiate these reductions with Russia to continue to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures,” the official said.
“The President will also articulate the goal of reducing US and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, pledging to work with NATO allies to develop proposals that can be explored with Russia to achieve this goal.”
Under the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty negotiated with Moscow during Obama’s first term, the two former Cold War foes cut strategic nuclear weapons stocks to the 1,550 level.
A one-third cut in the arsenals would take them to the 1,000 weapons mark.
Russia has previously resisted cuts to the number of tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Europe, and it is unclear whether the Kremlin would agree to the reductions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded further modifications to the US missile defense system in Europe as part of the haggling over the size of the two nuclear arsenals.
It also seems unlikely that the US Senate would agree to ratify a new treaty cutting nuclear weapons stocks after the tough ratification process that followed the agreement of the new START Treaty.
Obama’s political capital will have largely waned by the time such a treaty would be agreed and its prospects of ratification look slim.
There has been talk among nuclear arms experts in Washington that Obama could seek to get Russia’s agreement on cutting nuclear arsenals without a formal treaty.
The issue is likely to top the US agenda when Obama goes to Moscow in September for a summit with Putin, following their frosty meeting in Northern Ireland this week.
Obama has made cutting nuclear weapons stocks a centerpiece of his political legacy and is in theory committed to eradicating them all together.
However his counter-proliferation agenda has been somewhat tarnished by the fact that North Korean and Iranian nuclear drives have accelerated during his time in office.