"I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering those nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete."
- President Ronald Reagan, March 23, 1983
Ever since that first blinding flash and mushroom cloud appeared in the New Mexico dawn 65 years ago, all American Presidents have spoken of the dangers of nuclear weapons - and the need to control them. The terrifying specter of nuclear holocaust - which has seemingly faded from the minds of many Americans - is with us still, and probably always will be.
The U.S. and Russia today took an important step towards reducing this danger. President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the so-called "New Start" treaty that requires each country to cut its arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads each - a cut of nearly a third. If ratified by the Senate (67 votes needed) and Russia's legislature, it would be the first major arms reduction treaty with the Kremlin in nearly two decades.
Speaking after the treaty signing, Obama - who would like to see the total elimination of nuclear weapons - said the pact with the Kremlin "will move us further beyond the Cold War, strengthen the global non-proliferation regime, and make the United States, and the world, safer and more secure."
Today's amity isn't guaranteed to last. The Russians say they could withdraw over a planned U.S. missile-defense system, which the Kremlin sees as a threat - though Washington says it's meant to protect Europe from a potential Iranian attack.
Speaking of Iran, Obama and Medvedev will discuss ongoing efforts to ratchet up sanctions against Tehran today. But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, briefing reporters on Air Force One, cautioned that there wouldn't be any breakthrough announcement.
But even as though the U.S. and Russia cut their arsenals, most analysts think the real threat of a nuclear holocaust today comes from rogue states (like Iran or North Korea) or terror groups. Next week Obama hosts a conference of 47 nations with a very lofty goal: an agreement to secure all weapons-grade nuclear materials - which would lower the odds of them falling into the wrong hands - and to establish international nuclear fuel banks that would allow countries to build nuclear power plants without having to enrich uranium or plutonium on their own.
"A nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist is a danger to people everywhere," the President said.
CEST (6 hours ahead of Eastern time)
9:25AM THE PRESIDENT arrives in Prague, Czech Republic
Prague Ruzyně Airport
9:45AM THE PRESIDENT arrives at Prague Castle and is greeted by President Klaus of the Czech Republic
9:55AM THE PRESIDENT takes family photo with President Klaus and President Medvedev of Russia
10:05AM THE PRESIDENT holds bilateral meeting with President Medvedev
10:45AM THE PRESIDENT holds expanded meeting with President Medvedev
11:50AM THE PRESIDENT and President Medvedev attend New START Treaty signing ceremony and hold a press conference
1:00PM THE PRESIDENT and President Medvedev attend ceremonial lunch hosted by President Klaus; THE PRESIDENT delivers toast remarks
6:30PM THE PRESIDENT greets Central and Eastern European leaders on arrival
7:15PM THE PRESIDENT hosts dinner for Central and Eastern European leaders