This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.
This will sound radical to American and to European ears, perhaps especially in Britain.
I can not imagine a British Labour party leader giving the issue a similar level of prominence in a major campaign speech.
That is largely because of British domestic politics - and the way in which unilateralism divided the party in the 1950s, then became a symbol of Labour's unelectability in the 1980s. The Trident renewal debate has often seemed to be as much about electoral politics as national security.
Obama first made this commitment last Autumn in his New Beginning speech. Its inclusion in this flagship European address reinforces the signal that an Obama administration intends to seriously engage with the growing bipartisan support in the United States to replace the theory of deterrence with a strategy to reduce and elimate nuclear weapons.
Henry Kissinger is the standout counterintutive name for a European audience, but he, George Schultz, Sam Nunn and William Perry were able to boast an astonishingly impressive list of the great and good of American diplomacy who have rallied around the goal.
We have also been encouraged by additional indications of general support for this project from other former U.S. officials with extensive experience as secretaries of state and defense and national security advisors. These include: Madeleine Albright, Richard V. Allen, James A. Baker III, Samuel R. Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Warren Christopher, William Cohen, Lawrence Eagleburger, Melvin Laird, Anthony Lake, Robert McFarlane, Robert McNamara and Colin Powell.
More recently, the John McCain campaign have also signalled an interest in this agenda, referring to Ronald Reagan's dream of a nuclear free world. While McCain's approach is less specific than Obama's it has led John Kerry to highlight the opportunity this creates for a bipartsian initative.
In Europe, the debate has largely been confined to diplomatic circles, though David Owen's 'pro-nukes' policy was one of the defining issues of his political career, and so his involvement in a joint cross-party initiative with Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind and George Robertson was an attempt to emulate the US elite foreign policy initative.
The British government does share the goal. Former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett gave a significant speech including this commitment in one of her final speeches as Foreign Secretary. The speech was given to the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in Washington DC, and took place in the week of the Blair-Brown transition, and so was little noticed except by specialist audiences.
Perhaps the Obama commitment may now lead to a greater public debate on this side of the Atlantic too.