President Barack Obama drew sharp criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday following his call for a major cut in the nation's nuclear arms arsenal.
Speaking at the Brandenburg Gate where Presidents Kennedy and Reagan made historic Cold War addresses, Obama called on the United States to reduce its nuclear weapons by one-third if Russia would do the same.
Reaction from Republicans in Congress came swift and harshly.
"I'm disappointed in the president," Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee told Newsmax. "I'm sure you remember last year when the president discussed with [then-Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev about how he could do more after the election when he wouldn't be seeking re-election? Now you know the rest of the story."
Fleischmann, who serves on the House Energy Appropriations subcommittee and whose Third District is home to the Oak Ridge nuclear facility, pointed out that "we live in a dangerous world and Russia has not complied with existing treaties. Russia also has an advantage in tactical nuclear weapons and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has not exhibited any credibility, as we have seen recently regarding Syria.
"We won the Cold War because we showed nuclear vigilance and diligence. We should remain on that course today," said Fleischmann.
On the Senate side, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana strongly echoed Fleischmann's sharp words following the president's Berlin address.
"This decision is completely at odds with the current realities facing our nation and seems to be completely at odds with our request to require congressional approval for any drawdowns," Vitter told reporters.
"President Obama basically told Russia's president that he'll walk away from our nuclear deterrence and at the same time is also walking away from helping protect our close allies in Europe right when the threat is greatest for them, particularly from Iran and others who we know are seeking these capabilities. I just hoped he wouldn’t actually do it."
As it did with Fleischmann, Obama's remarks brought back for Vitter unsettling memories of Obama's 2012 conversation with Medvedev.
In March of last year, Vitter co-signed a letter with 42 other senators to Obama asking him to further explain his position about his conversation with Russia's president when Obama said he needs "flexibility" on missile defense.
Although he has been out of Congress for more than two years, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, watches the issue of arms reduction and U.S. relations with Russia closely.
Reached by Newsmax shortly after the president's speech, Hoekstra said: "Why this? Why now? We have huge problems in the Middle East — notably Syria — and the reset with Russia will not help. Why the president would focus on nuclear arms when the economy is weak and Obamacare is at the starting gate I don't understand at all."
And, in what would seem to be an understatement, Hoekstra predicted, "He won't get many Republicans to go along with him on this one."
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