Sunflowers are a simple miracle. They grow
from a seed. They rise from the earth. They are natural.
They are bright and beautiful. They bring a smile to one's
face. They produce seeds that are nutritious, and from
these seeds oil is produced. Native Americans once used
parts of the sunflower plant to treat rattlesnake bites,
and sunflower meal to make bread. Sunflowers were even
used near Chernobyl to extract radionuclides cesium 137
and strontium 90 from contaminated ponds following the
catastrophic nuclear reactor accident there.
Now sunflowers carry new meaning. They have
become the symbol of a world free of nuclear weapons. This
came about after an extraordinary celebration of Ukraine
achieving the status of a nuclear weapons free state. On
June 1, 1996, Ukraine transferred to Russia for dismantlement
the last of the 1900 nuclear warheads it had inherited
from the former Soviet Union. Celebrating the occasion
a few days later, the Defense Ministers of Ukraine, Russia,
and the United States met at a former nuclear missile base
in the Ukraine that once housed 80 SS-19 missiles aimed
at the United States.