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Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican who helped Russia get rid of Cold War-era nukes, dies aged 87

Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican who helped Russia get rid of Cold War-era nukes, dies aged 87
Former Indiana Senator and nuclear disarmament champion Richard Lugar has died, aged 87. Lugar was honored by the Russian embassy in Washington for legislation that helped Russia dispose of thousands of Cold War-era weapons.

Lugar passed away on Sunday, from complications related to chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIPD, a rare neurological disorder, the Lugar Center in Washington said in a statement.

In his 36 years in the Senate, Lugar is chiefly remembered for traits now sadly lacking in American politics: A willingness to work with his Democratic colleagues, a desire to limit the spread of deadly weapons worldwide, and the conviction to work alongside Russia to make this happen.

It may seem improbable today, but there were times Russia and the US closely cooperated on issues of security, and Lugar was at the forefront of this effort. The Russian embassy in Washington honored the late Senator on Sunday, highlighting his work in fostering cooperation between the two nuclear powers.

Lugar’s most lasting achievement was a piece of legislation authored with Democratic Senator Sam Nunn in 1991. With the Cold War over and the Soviet Union dissolved, the world’s attention turned to the stockpile of nuclear weapons that had built up over decades of frozen conflict with the USA.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program passed in the face of disinterest from Congress and without the support of the George HW Bush administration. Beginning in 1992, the program provided funding to help Russia and other former USSR countries to dismantle over 7,000 nuclear warheads, 2,300 missiles, and 194 nuclear test tunnels. The program also improved security at nuclear and chemical weapons sites, and paid for 58,000 former weapons scientists to transition into peaceful employment.


Russia has since switched one Nunn-Lugar site into an environmentally friendly missile decommissioning site, and opened another facility to dismantle its chemical weapons reserves. Lugar visited Russia several times over the years, including in 2005 with the then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

A statesman of a bygone era, Lugar launched a failed bid for the presidency in 1996, under the slogan “nuclear security and fiscal sanity.” Security and sanity didn’t translate into votes, however, and Lugar failed to build rapport with the public and wrapped up his campaign after failing to secure a single delegate at his party’s convention.

Lugar’s re-election campaign in 2012 also saw the longtime foreign-policy buff lose out to a new breed of Republican. His Tea Party-backed opponent Richard Mourdock slated Lugar for supporting Obama’s bailout programs and raising the debt ceiling. “Lugar has clearly lost his way,” Mourdock proclaimed at the time.

Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute to Lugar on Sunday, calling the deceased Senator “a friend and mentor.”

“We will miss his kindness, example, and wisdom,” Pence said. Indiana and America will never forget the leadership and service of Senator Richard Lugar.”

Obama also sent his condolences. “He understood the intricacies of America’s power and the way words uttered in Washington echo around the globe,” he wrote. “But perhaps most importantly, he exhibited the truth that common courtesy can speak across cultures.”


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