Preparations in full swing for signing of landmark US-Russian disarmament treaty in Prague

Barack Obama, photo: Štěpánka Budková

Almost exactly a year after US President Barrack Obama declared his commitment to seeking a world free of nuclear weapons in a keynote speech in Prague – he is due to return to the Czech capital to sign a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty with his Russian counterpart, Dimitry Medvedev. Mr. Obama will also meet with a number of European leaders in the course of his two day visit. The Czech capital is gearing up for a massive security effort for what is shaping up to be a historic event.

All eyes will be on the Czech capital next Thursday, when US president Barrack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev arrive in Prague to sign a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty to replace 1991’s START treaty.

Barack Obama,  photo: Štěpánka Budková
Aside from signing START II, Barrack Obama will also meet with a number of European leaders. So far, the prime ministers of Poland and Hungary, as well as the Romanian president have confirmed participation. Heads of state and government from Slovakia, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia have also been invited. And, according to Friday’s edition of the daily Právo, the US and the Russian president will also be meeting for one-on-one talks with the Czech president, Václav Klaus.

Security during the high-profile event will be a massive operation organized by Czech, Russian and American security teams. The Czech air force will be escorting the presidential airplanes to Prague airport, where departures and arrivals will be put on hold during the landing of Mr. Obama’s and Mr. Medvedev’s planes. During their stay in the Czech capital Gripen fighters and military helicopters will be securing the air space. Parts of Prague will be closed off to traffic, and security experts, soldiers and police will be on duty throughout the city.

Dimitry Medvedev
This is the second visit by President Obama to take place in the absence of an American ambassador in the Czech Republic. The post has been vacant since the departure of the former US ambassador Richard Graber. Currently, ambassadorial duties are performed by the US embassy’s chargé d’affaires, Mary Thompson-Jones. The naming of a new ambassador is a lengthy process, the candidate has to be approved by the White House and US senate. After the last candidate for the post failed security vetting, there is now talk of a temporary solution in the form of an acting ambassador who would not need pass the strict screening process.