U.S. will reduce role of nuclear weapons, says Obama

President Obama delivers a speech at the Brandenburg Gate on June 19, 2013 in Berlin. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

In a wide-ranging speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, President Obama on Wednesday unveiled U.S. plans to reduce its global nuclear presence, as part of a broader effort to "move beyond Cold War nuclear postures" and "reject the nuclear weaponization" long pursued by countries like North Korea and Iran.

Delivering a lengthy speech in the high Berlin heat, Mr. Obama, his face covered with a sheen of sweat, outlined a plan to "ensure the security of America" and its allies by "reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one third."

"Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons," Mr. Obama told the crowd of thousands.

According to a White House fact sheet on the new strategy, the United States will continue to maintain a nuclear presence that can serve as a "credible deterrent, capable of convincing any potential adversary that the adverse consequences of attacking the United States or our allies and partners far outweigh any potential benefit they may seek to gain through an attack." At the same time, however, the president is directing the defense department to "strengthen non-nuclear capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks," and "examine and reduce the role of launch under attack in contingency planning."

"The guidance narrows U.S. nuclear strategy to focus on only those objectives and missions that are necessary for deterrence in the 21st century," according to the fact sheet. "In so doing, the guidance takes further steps toward reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy."

Mr. Obama said he would host a summit in 2016 as part of this effort, and that he would continue to pursue the ratification of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

The president spoke broadly about the continued need to pursue peace and justice, and encouraged the German people to continue actively working toward those goals - on behalf of everyone from Arab nations to gay and lesbian men and women.

"We must acknowledge that there can at times be a complacency among our Western Democracies," he said. "I come here today, Berlin, to say complacency is not the character of great nations. 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."

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