Richard Lugar, US foreign policy luminary, dies at 87

Then Senator Richard Lugar (left) receiving an award from his Senate colleagues, including committee chairman Senator John Kerry during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Capitol Hill in 2012.
Then Senator Richard Lugar (left) receiving an award from his Senate colleagues, including committee chairman Senator John Kerry during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Capitol Hill in 2012.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tributes pour in for former senator known for bipartisanship, nuclear non-proliferation

WASHINGTON • Former senator Richard Lugar, a leading US voice on foreign policy for decades and a one-time presidential candidate known for his civility and bipartisan ways, has died at a medical centre in Falls Church, Virginia. He was 87.

Mr Lugar died of chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy, according to a statement from the Lugar Centre in Washington, a global policy institute that he founded in 2013.

A soft-spoken Republican moderate, Mr Lugar was twice chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and built a reputation as one of Washington's most influential foreign policy voices during the record six terms he represented Indiana in the Senate.

That reputation was burnished by his willingness to work across party lines, most famously when he joined Democratic senator Sam Nunn in 1991 to forge what became known as the Nunn-Lugar programme to help former Soviet republics dismantle their nuclear arsenals.

In a statement, Vice-President Mike Pence - former governor of Indiana - mourned the loss on Sunday of "one of our greatest statesmen". "Senator Lugar's contributions to the life of our nation are countless," he said.

Then President Barack Obama awarded Mr Lugar the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 for his "decency (and) his commitment to bipartisan problem-solving".

"For 36 years, Richard Lugar proved that pragmatism and decency work - not only in Washington but all over the world," the former president said.

"Michelle and I send our warmest sympathies to his family and all those who had the privilege of knowing this American statesman."

In a statement, former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said: "He was a man of great decency who was widely respected on both sides of the aisle for his vast policy knowledge, especially on foreign affairs, and his commitment to bipartisan solutions."

Mr Lugar was a leader in pressing South Africa to end apartheid, and earlier in the campaign to oust the authoritarian Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos - having to overcome opposition from then President Ronald Reagan on both issues.

Mr Lugar sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1996, but the bookish politician - as a Rhodes scholar he earned an honours degree from Oxford in 1954 - wryly acknowledged that charisma was hardly his strong suit and he ultimately withdrew from the race.

After leaving the Senate, Mr Lugar continued to work on nuclear non-proliferation issues, global hunger and energy conservation.

He is survived by his wife Charlene, whom he married in 1956, and by four sons.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'Richard Lugar, US foreign policy luminary, dies at 87'. Print Edition | Subscribe