A Distinguished Legacy: Honoring Senator Lugar

Indiana Senator Richard Lugar is a tough, seasoned conservative who could be brutal when fighting for his positions.  When it came to national security issues, however, Senator Lugar always put the national interest above partisan politics. On May 8, he lost the Indiana Republican primary election.

We at Ploughshares Fund may have differed with the Senator on some issues, but we honor his incredible record of service, particularly in foreign policy and arms control. We are proud to have known Senator Lugar as a leader in our field and as an important partner in creating a safer world, free of the threat from nuclear weapons.

Indeed, there are very few programs initiated by the U.S. Congress that can claim the tangible legacy of making America safer like the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act. There are very few Senators that can claim to have made America safer than Richard Lugar.

Senator Lugar has one of the most distinguished foreign policy records in Congress. Along with Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), Lugar created the single most effective means of securing and dismantling nuclear materials in the Soviet Union as it was collapsing in the early 1990s. The program, called Nunn-Lugar, has to date deactivated 13,300 nuclear warheads, destroyed 1473 ICBMs and 936 nuclear submarines, eliminated 233 bombers and secured 829 nuclear weapons transports. All this at far smaller budgets than many of the weapons systems routinely funded by Congress.

But Nunn-Lugar wasn’t Lugar’s only accomplishment. Aside from a distinguished record as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and visionary supporter of policy initiatives from sanctions to end South African apartheid to the creation of NAFTA, Senator Lugar has been a steady and consistent champion of nuclear arms control efforts. Most recently, Senator Lugar led the Senate to its December 2010 approval of the New START treaty, an important measure that lowered both nations strategic nuclear weapons stockpiles and reinstated mutual nuclear inspections.

As Sam Nunn, now a leader in the non-profit arms control community, said today in a statement:

[Senator Lugar] is one of the world’s most effective and tireless champions for reducing the threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. There is no doubt that the world is a safer place thanks to Dick Lugar.

The Associated Press quoted Ploughshares Fund own Joe Cirincione, "Richard Lugar's a national hero," he said, "If he wasn't there, we would face greater threats today. We're safer because of what he's done."

While we are sad to see Senator Lugar leave the Senate, we are certain that he will continue his legacy of leadership on nuclear threat reduction and national security issues in the private sector. Here at Ploughshares Fund, we have often exchanged compliments and congratulations with Senator Lugar on our work together. We hope that we will be able to partner with him again to make the world safer as he moves to the next phase of his life. In fact, we’re counting on it.

Photo courtesy of CNS Monterey