I asked Sen. Richard Lugar: "If you would still be chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as you have been twice during your tenure in the U.S. Senate, what advice would you give to President Obama on handling the Ukrainian crisis?"
"I have already advised the Obama administration to increase permits for the export of natural gas to countries dependent on Russian imports of natural gas," he said in an interview with the Lake Placid News and the Virginia Gazette. "Making our allies in Europe less dependent on that source of energy would reinforce our unity and strengthen our hand in dealing with Russia."
Former U.S. Sen. Lugar was in town to serve as the 2014 Hunter B. Andrews Distinguished Fellow in American Politics at the College of William & Mary.
Former Sen. Richard Lugar
"Dick Lugar has devoted his life to our country," W&M President Taylor Reveley was quoted saying. "He will be an extraordinarily worthy Hunter Andrews Fellow."
Indeed, Lugar, the longest-serving member of Congress in Indiana history, represented the state in the Senate for six terms. He was a leading expert on national security policy, and his contribution to advancing peace and security reached well beyond America's borders.
He was instrumental in promoting peaceful transition to democracy in the Philippines and led the fight to pass the Anti-Apartheid Act that eventually brought regime change to South Africa. But Lugar's greatest legacy lies in the area of nuclear weapons control and disarmament. Together with Sen. Sam Nunn, (D-Georgia), they were the authors of the Nunn-Lugar program that deactivated and destroyed nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union. This program eliminated 6,000 nuclear warheads that once targeted the United States.
I asked him whether he is concerned that the Ukrainian crisis may unravel the process of cooperation between the United States and Russia in preventing the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Lugar explained that the treaty with Russia to eliminate nuclear stockpiles ran out and wasn't renewed. But he now sees a greater danger in the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. He has recently undertaken a fact-finding trip to the African country of Kenya. What he has found dismayed him. Chemical plants that supply the agricultural sector produce ingredients that could be easily converted into chemical or biological weapons by terrorist groups. There is little control over those ingredients.
He emphasized that the danger facing our country is not derived from being attacked by a nation-state, but there is a grave danger that fanatical terrorist groups may get hold of weapons of mass destruction and use them indiscriminately.
During his last tenure as senator, Lugar concentrated on inviting outstanding scientists from around the world to outline innovative methods and strategies that would make ineffective the use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist.
Lugar, the "elder statesman" of the Republican Party, who once personified the credo that "partisanship should stop at the water's edge," brought with this spirit in his interaction with William & Mary students as the Hunter B. Andrews Fellow.
"I was very impressed with their interest and engagement in politics, "he said.
"I'm optimistic about the future. The new generation will not let us down."
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette.