Former Sen. Richard Lugar’s soft-spoken presence belied an influence on the global stage that was celebrated Wednesday for helping secure peace in many parts of the world.
Vice President Mike Pence and Chief Justice John Roberts joined numerous other national leaders among several hundred mourners at Lugar’s funeral in his hometown of Indianapolis following his death last month at age 87.
Lugar’s most prominent achievement during 36 years in the Senate was a program he started with former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn under which the U.S. paid for the dismantling of thousands of former Soviet nuclear weapons after the Cold War ended in the early 1990s.
Nunn described in a eulogy how he traveled with the Republican Lugar to Ukraine, where Lugar told the country’s president that he would recommend a $150 million program to President George H.W. Bush toward the destruction of its nuclear weapons and missiles. But Ukraine’s president that day publicly announced Lugar’s offer — much to the two senators’ surprise, Nunn said.
“Fortunately, President Bush later ratified Sen. Lugar’s unauthorized and unconstitutional assertion of executive power and three countries — Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus — did get rid of all their nuclear weapons,” Nunn said. “In all of our travels thereafter, my first question was, ‘Dick, did you bring your checkbook?'”