March 27, 2012
President Obama promised on Monday to pursue yet another controversial agreement with Russian officials to further slash both governments’ nuclear arsenals, saying the United States already controls more than enough atomic weapons. Speaking ahead of a global “security” summit in Seoul, South Korea, Obama also blasted the regimes ruling North Korea and Iran.
Despite several high-profile disagreements in recent years, outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev praised the Obama administration, saying relations between the two governments had reached their “best level” in a decade. Obama, meanwhile, thanked Medvedev for his “cooperation” and said he could not have asked for a “better partner” in Russia.
"Going forward, we'll continue to seek discussions with Russia on a step we have never taken before — reducing not only our strategic nuclear warheads, but also tactical weapons and warheads in reserve," Obama said during a speech at South Korea’s Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. “We can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need.”
Shortly after taking office, Obama vowed to pursue a “world without nuclear weapons,” drawing praise from anti-nuclear activists but criticism from a broad range of others. And in 2010, the administration convinced the U.S. Senate to ratify the highly controversial new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty(START) with the Russian government. The treaty, which cut nuclear stockpiles by one third, was hailed as Obama’s first major foreign policy achievement.
At the time, outraged American critics complained that the deal significantly weakened U.S. national defense capabilities and further eroded national sovereignty. But as Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin prepares to take office again, Obama is again demanding deeper cuts.
"I’m confident that, working together, we can continue to make progress and reduce our nuclear stockpiles,” the President told students during his speech. “Of course, we’ll consult closely with our allies every step of the way, because the security and defense of our allies, both in Europe and Asia, is not negotiable."
Obama also tried to use emotional appeals while framing the issue as a “moral” imperative. "I believe the United States has a unique responsibility to act — indeed, we have a moral obligation," he claimed. "I say this as President of the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons. I say it as a Commander-in-Chief who knows that our nuclear codes are never far from my side. Most of all, I say it as a father, who wants my two young daughters to grow up in a world where everything they know and love can't be instantly wiped out."