Remarks at the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress Awards

Lou, thank you for your kind words and for your service to our nation.  It’s a privilege to share this stage with your outstanding honorees, Margery and Gary, as well as many of my former colleagues.

It’s a special thrill to receive this award with my friend Dick Lugar.  I have something in common with Dick’s wife Charlene: our partnership with Dick has cost us both half our names!

In the Senate and beyond, I could never have found a better partner or more trusted friend than Dick.  We teamed up in 1991 to address a problem that no one had ever faced before by devising a solution that no one had ever seen before -- spending U.S. dollars to secure Soviet weapons and materials of mass destruction.

I was especially proud that Congress acted expeditiously to respond to this serious security threat, because not one member who voted for spending U.S. dollars to secure Soviet weapons and materials believed that they were casting a vote that would help them politically. 

Many people deserve credit for seeing the danger and helping pass this legislation, including my House partner, the late Les Aspin, many former Members and a number of my former staff here in this room.  As all of us who have served in Congress realize, even well-meaning laws are not self-implementing. 

So tonight, I would like to pay tribute to the men and women who actually made Nunn-Lugar work and helped avoid probable catastrophies that can never be proven or quantified. 

In particular, we should recognize the patriotic and dedicated public servants in the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy and in the Russian Ministry of Defense and ROSATOM.  These Cold War antagonists set aside 45 years of confrontation and worked together at a time of dire economic strain in Russia and the former Soviet Union.  I also include their counterparts from Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus. 

Scientists, security personnel, shipyard workers and members of the military – many of whom spent their careers building up the weaponry of the Cold War – embraced the duty of bringing down these dangerous inventories safely.  Their unprecedented work reminds us that a sense of duty and a spirit of cooperation are essential if we are going to protect the future for our children and grandchildren.

Today, grave dangers are still with us:

  • Nine nations possess nuclear weapons, and more are trying;
  • Nuclear weapons-usable material and knowledge are spread across the globe, and
  • Terrorists are ready to use a weapon of mass destruction if they manage to buy, steal, or make one. 

Our response must be bold and vigorous:

  • This cooperative effort must become a global partnership. 
  • The United States and Russia must be leading partners and join together with other countries to secure weapons and materials of mass destruction globally and reduce risks that pose a threat to us all. 

We have made huge progress since the Cold War ended, but we have miles to go before we sleep.

To my Congressional colleagues, thank you for your service to our nation and for this award.  Dick Lugar and I will continue to work hard to deserve this great honor.

March 20, 2013

The U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress presented former Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar with its Statesmanship Award for their work in creating the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

Sam Nunn
Sam Nunn

Co-Chair, NTI