Richard Lugar, who for 36 years served as a Republican senator from Indiana, died yesterday at age 87. He is best known for his efforts to reduce the world’s stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Lugar was pivotal in securing ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and he was a supporter of international negotiations to reduce global warming. After retiring from the Senate, he founded The Lugar Center in Washington as “a platform for an informed debate” on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other global issues.
In 1991, Lugar began a bipartisan partnership with Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat from Georgia, that led to the creation of the Defense Department’s Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. “Our nation has lost an extraordinary statesman who made the world a safer and better place. I have lost a wonderful friend and trusted partner,” Nunn said in a statement released yesterday.
The Nunn-Lugar program provided funding and expertise for governments in the former Soviet Union to deactivate more than 7,500 nuclear warheads and destroy hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and nuclear air-to-surface missiles. It also upgraded security at weapons storage sites in Russia and transformed 500 metric tons of Russian weapons-grade uranium into fuel that generated nearly 10 percent of all the electricity consumed in the United States for 15 years.
In a statement posted on Twitter, former President Barack Obama recalled working with Lugar on nuclear nonproliferation efforts: “Dick always stuck to the facts. He understood the intricacies of America’s power and the way words uttered in Washington echo around the globe. But perhaps most importantly, he exhibited the truth that common courtesy can speak across cultures.”