Bromund: Barack Obama still sees world through a Cold War lens

President Barack Obama gestures as he holds a

President Barack Obama gestures as he holds a speach in front of the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin, Germany. (June 19, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

On Wednesday, standing in front of Berlin's iconic Brandenberg Gate, President Barack Obama recalled John F. Kennedy's Cold War demand for "peace with justice." Obama's own words will bring neither.

The president will likely never have a friendlier audience than one composed of Europeans, and he threw this one bouquet after bouquet. He praised Germany for leading the fight against climate change. Apparently he didn't notice that German Chancellor Angela Merkel just called for reducing Germany's subsidies for wind and solar power to keep the country economically competitive.

He proclaimed, "America will stand with Europe as you strengthen your union." But by holding fast to the euro, the continent is deliberately driving itself deeper into recession. If the president really feels "the pain of youth who are unemployed," he should abandon his support for that troubled currency.


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He declared we must "reject the excuse that we can do nothing to support" change in the Arab world, and that people fighting for freedom "deserve our support." Tell that to the protesters in Iran in 2009, or the people of Afghanistan whom we are about to abandon to the mercies of the Taliban.

But at the center of his speech was another call for "a world without nuclear weapons." We heard yet again that the United States needs, with Russia, to "move beyond Cold War nuclear postures" and that this will "create a world of peace with justice."

The fact that the United States has nuclear weapons has nothing to do with the scarcity of peace and justice in the world. Our nuclear weapons did not cause the war in Syria. They do not make al-Qaida hate us. They have no connection with the lack of justice in Iran. The president's words have no contact with reality.

The United States moved beyond its Cold War nuclear posture years ago. We have cut our nuclear arsenal by about 90 percent. The only person trapped in the Cold War is the president himself, who is still focused on the Russian and American stockpiles.

The president coupled this obsession with a call for a "new international framework for peaceful nuclear power." We have a framework for the peaceful development of nuclear energy already: It's the nonproliferation treaty of 1970. The problem is regimes such as Iran and North Korea are systematically violating it.

Incredibly, the president said only that North Korea "may" be seeking to build a nuclear weapon. There's no "may" about it: The nation has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006. As for Iran, Obama can "reject" its nuclear ambitions all he wants, but his words will not stop Iran.

The more he focuses on cutting the United States down to size, the less serious we will be about the actual nuclear dangers in the world. Those dangers do not stem from our weapons. They stem from the emerging nuclear powers of the world and, in the age of the sequester, from our own rapidly diminishing ability to uphold our alliance commitments.

But if Obama finds that reality too challenging and wants to focus on Russia instead, he might recall that his 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty requires cuts only for the United States. Now he wants to follow that one-sided deal with another: reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons "in Europe."

That's yet another bad idea. The Russians would be delighted with a treaty that eliminates what remains of the U.S. nuclear presence in Europe while leaving them free to store their tactical weapons east of the Ural Mountains, in what is geographic Asia.

The president asserts that we are trapped in the Cold War. But nuclear weapons weren't invented, nor do they exist today, because of the U.S.-Russian rivalry. It's dangerous for the commander in chief to believe that they can be made to disappear if only the United States takes the lead.

Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Thatcher Center for Freedom.

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