Public AffairsPolitics / February 26, 2014

Lugar Credited With Preventing Worse Situation In Ukraine

Sam Klemet
Lugar Credited With Preventing Worse Situation In Ukraine

More than 20 years ago, Sen., Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, and Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat from Georgia, sponsored the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

It helped get rid of thousands of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.

Now, protests plague Ukraine along with violence and death.

Lugar says without the program created two decades ago, the uprising could be much more deadly.

"What if Ukraine had retained even a part of its nuclear weapons or parts comparable to the amounts Russia has even with all the reductions with the Start Treaty and new Start Treaty?," said Lugar.  "This would be a different sort of world.  Right now, Ukraine does not have any (nuclear weapons)."

Lugar was key in negotiating a deal with Ukraine to dismantle their nuclear weapons.  He said at the time, the eastern European nation was the third largest nuclear power. 

"I always kid Sen. Lugar because he let the president know during a dinner there was $150 million available for him out of the Nunn-Lugar program if they did need help in getting rid of their nuclear weapons," said Nunn.  "Immediately after the dinner, the president lined up several news media out there and he announced that Sen. Lugar had just pledged $175 million.  So, that was a big moment."

And, Nunn says that was pivotal in preserving peace in that region for a long time.

"It was an important moment," said Nunn.  "If you take the same situation that exists right now and put an overlay of them continuing to have nuclear weapons, it'd be extremely dangerous."

Lugar and Nunn, both out of the Senate now, spoke at the University of Indianapolis for a conversation on Diplomacy in a Dangerous World. You can watch it Thursday, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. on WFYI 1.