Photo: Image courtesy Office of the Secretary of the Senate
Richard Lugar &
10th Heinz Awards - 2003
On occasion, the Heinz Awards program receives nominations of individuals whose records of achievement are worthy of special recognition, which is bestowed in the form of the Chairman’s Medal. Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn were selected to be so honored for their visionary leadership to reduce the threat of nuclear chaos and calamity.
Richard Lugar, a five-term senator from Indiana and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sam Nunn, a former senator from Georgia and the current co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), developed a far-sighted program that led to the dismantling of thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads and helped protect weapons of mass destruction from reaching hostile groups.
Recognizing the lingering post-Cold War threat posed by stockpiles of nuclear weapons, U.S. Senators Lugar and Nunn created in 1991 the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, an innovative initiative that accelerated the disarming of nuclear weapons. While politically risky, the two senators forged a bipartisan congressional coalition that ultimately authorized $400 million for the purpose of dismantling Soviet weaponry, which numbered tens of thousands of nuclear warheads at the time.
Twelve years later, the impact of the Nunn-Lugar program has been significant. It is credited with deactivating over 6,000 nuclear warheads. It has destroyed 515 ballistic missiles, 441 ballistic missile silos, 115 bombers, 400 submarine-launched missiles, 408 submarine missile launchers and 27 strategic missile submarines. More than 20,000 Russian scientists, formerly employed in weapons of mass destruction programs, are now pursuing peaceful research. Because of the program, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus – once the third, fourth and eighth-largest nuclear powers in the world – are today nuclear-free nations.
Congress has now given the green light to destroying Russian chemical weapons under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and – for the first time – authorized the emergency expansion of the program outside the former Soviet Union. Believing that the United States must have the ability to identify all weapons of mass destruction and the capabilities to guard and systematically destroy them, it is hoped that the success of Nunn-Lugar will be replicated in such global hotspots as North Korea and Iran and help reduce tensions in Pakistan and India.
Senator Nunn, who retired from the Senate in 1996, founded and serves as the co-chairman and chief executive officer of NTI, a charitable organization working to reduce the global threat from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Last year, NTI sponsored a conference in Moscow for American and Russian experts on nuclear and biological weapons at which Senators Nunn and Lugar called for the creation of a Global Coalition Against Catastrophic Terrorism. The G-8 industrialized nations subsequently agreed to commit $20 billion over the next 10 years to form such a coalition.
“Victory in this war can be succinctly stated. We must keep the world’s most dangerous technologies out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous people. This requires diligent work that shrinks the lists of nations harboring terrorists, voluntarily or involuntarily, and those nations that possess materials, programs or weapons of mass destruction. Both lists should be clear and finite. The war against terrorism will not be over until all nations on the lists have complied with these standards,” Senator Lugar said.
The courageous leadership of these two global statesmen has helped to significantly diminish the threat of nuclear catastrophe. We – and peaceful nations around the world – are in their debt.
Note: This profile was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.
Richard Lugar passed away on April 28, 2019.