Former Sen. Sam Nunn, a staunch Georgia Democrat, and current Sen. Richard Lugar, a stalwart Indiana Republican, might seem to have little in common at first glance. Closer inspection of their records, though, indicates a willingness on the part of both men to forego partisanship to work cooperatively on projects of national and international importance. Their work on what became the 1991 Nunn-Lugar Act is an example of the positive outcomes that often result when legislators are willing to cross party lines to produce meaningful legislation.
The act, which created the program that is credited with aiding former Soviet republics such as Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan get rid of nuclear weapons, was celebrated at the time of its creation, but was mostly forgotten by all but those still actively involved in the ongoing-work of securing and dismantling global stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. A Wednesday ceremony in the Netherlands is a reminder of the senators' role in that important work.
The pair were named the first recipients of a new international prize awarded to individuals or groups whose work prevents nuclear weapon proliferation. Nunn and Lugar are certainly worthy of the award — henceforth known as the Nunn-Lugar Award for Promoting Nuclear Security — presented by Carnegie Foundation and Endowment groups.
The act contributed directly to the deactivation of more than 7,500 nuclear warheads, neutralized chemical weapons, safeguarded fissile materials, reduced bio-threats and converted weapons facilities to peaceful uses. The world is a safer place because of the Nunn-Lugar bill.
Nunn left the Senate in 1997, but is still active in the campaign to reduce the nuclear threat. Lugar remains in the Senate, but he lost his re-election bid earlier this year. The award honoring both men is a reminder of a time when principle and a desire to serve all rather than a single party was commonplace at the highest levels of U.S. politics.