WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama heads to Prague Wednesday to sign a landmark nuclear treaty with Russia.
The treaty commits the two former Cold War adversaries to new arms reductions, slashing arsenals by nearly a third if it is ratified.
Obama Orders Sweeping Nuke Policy Changes
Obama's trip comes a day after he declared sweeping changes to the way the U.S. protects itself with nuclear arms. His policies cut out the nuclear option in all but a few scenarios.
Obama is pledging not to launch nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them and are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That includes retaliation strikes, meaning that if a complying country launches a biological, cyber or chemical attack on the U.S., America will not strike back with a nuclear weapon.
It is the first time America has made such a promise.
"We are recalibrating our priorities to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "And we are reducing the role and number of weapons in our arsenal while maintaining a safe, secure and effective deterrent to protect our nation, allies and partners."
Nations such as Iran and North Korea that don't comply with international nonproliferation standards are not included in the pledge. In fact, when it comes to those countries, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says all options are on the table.
"The United States will continue to hold accountable any state, terrorist group of other not state actor that supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction," Gates said during Tuesday's Pentagon briefing.
Sending the Wrong Message?
However, CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stackelbeck says the president's pledge sends the wrong message at the wrong time.
"I think the U.S. is taking a step back, really unilaterally disarming, while Russia, China, Iran, North Korea rogue regimes, rival regimes are actually increasing their weapons and their nuclear output," Stakelbeck said.
Click here for more insight from CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck.
White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs says the president's goal is to provide incentives for good behavior and assurances to weaponless countries that they won't suffer nuclear strikes from the U.S.
"Obviously we're entering into a different period with relative stability among larger countries in the world," Gibbs said.
Iranian Leader Ridicules 'Cowboy' Policy
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is slamming what he calls the president's "cowboy" policy, dismissing it as a strategy destined to fail.
"American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys," Ahmadinejad said in a speech Wednesday before a crowd of several thousand in northwestern Iran.
"Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience," the hard-line leader said. "Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended."
On Thursday, Obama is scheduled to be in Prague to sign new arms treaty with Russia. After that he is hosting nearly 50 nations in Washington to discuss nuclear stability.