Lugar and Nunn share international insights in ‘Diplomacy in Dangerous World’ event


Lugar_Nunn_190-(1)Two men who may well have saved the world from nuclear annihilation visited UIndy in February to share memories as well as some perspective on today’s international issues. “Diplomacy in a Dangerous World: A Conversation with Senators Richard G. Lugar and Sam Nunn” was moderated by NPR host Steve Inskeep and presented by the University and WFYI Public Media. The event attracted a capacity crowd, as well as a gaggle of journalists who pumped the two foreign-policy experts for insights during a pre-event news conference.The discussion was webcast live and recorded for broadcast on public television in Indiana and Georgia, Nunn’s home state.

The February 25 occasion was a particular thrill for faculty and students in UIndy’s Department of History, Political Science, and International Relations, in which Lugar is a distinguished professor. The significance of meeting the co-authors of the landmark Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which eliminated thousands of nuclear weapons and weapons facilities in the former Soviet Union, was not lost on grad student Brandon White of Sellersburg.

“Several of us got to hang around afterwards and talk to (Lugar), and Senator Nunn as well, so that was a pretty special experience,” said White, who is pursuing a master’s degree in international relations. “Especially when you consider what they accomplished and the size of what they have done for not only the U.S. but the rest of the world—to have both of those men in one room on our campus was incredible.”

The crisis in Ukraine was in the news that week, and both guests expressed relief that the former Soviet nation no longer possessed the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, as it had before their historic Nunn-Lugar legislation became law in 1992. Asked by Inskeep what scared them most in today’s world, however, neither Nunn nor Lugar pointed to a specific nation, but instead to the unconventional threats faced by all nations, such as biological agents that could be deployed by a terrorist group even without support from an established state. As a result, Lugar said, the nations of the world have more incentive than ever to work together in making the world a safer place. “We can’t solve the North Korea problem without working with China, we can’t solve the Iranian problem without Iran, and we can’t solve the Ukrainian problem without Russia,” said Lugar, namesake of UIndy’s Richard G. Lugar Academy and its leadership programs for college and high school students. “We are indeed in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.” Each speaker, however, tempered his warnings with optimism.

Nunn pointed out that an agreement with Russia, stemming from the Nunn-Lugar initiative, had allowed the United States to purchase stockpiles of uranium enriched for weapons use and instead use the material as fuel in U.S. nuclear power plants. “So 10 percent of all the electricity in the United States for the last 20 years has come from weapons material that was aimed at us during the Cold War,” he said. “I consider that a parable of hope, when you’ve got all the other problems that we sometimes wring our hands about.”

Professor Lugar honored with Medal of Freedom

Former U.S. Senator and UIndy faculty member Richard Lugar received the nation’s highest civilian honor in November. He is among 16 Americans who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Other recipients included former President Bill Clinton, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, country music legend Loretta Lynn, and Watergate-era Washington Post editor Bill Bradlee. The longtime statesman’s Medal of Freedom honors his record of bipartisan leadership on international security issues and his commitment to nuclear weapons reduction, a mission he continues from his Lugar Center in Washington, D.C. At the ceremony at the White House, President Barack Obama noted that Lugar had made the world a safer place, saying, “Dick Lugar’s decency, his commitment to bipartisan problem solving, stand as a model of what public service ought to be.”
Lugar was named Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Relations in December, when he and UIndy announced the formation of the Richard G. Lugar Academy to carry on his legacy of public service and leadership. He is a Distinguished Trustee of the University.