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Journal entry

Lugar’s one degree of Nobel separation


Mark Helmke is still campaigning for former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.

Lugar’s ex-aide wrote a letter to the committee in Norway that awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In it, Helmke argues that it was the work of Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn that paved the way for the prize winner.

Lugar, an Indiana Republican, and Nunn, a Georgia Democrat, authored legislation in 1991 that has helped deactivate or destroy thousands of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union. Lugar spent 36 years in the Senate, departing last year after his defeat in the Republican primary election.

“As he was leaving the Senate last year, Lugar went to Russia and proposed the UN and the OPCW deal with the chemical weapons (in) Syria. One more score for peace,” Helmke wrote to the Nobel committee.

The other scores? There’s the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program itself. And Helmke contends that two other Nobel Peace Prize winners – President Barack Obama in 2009 and the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005 – had connections to or inspiration from Lugar’s work to dismantle weapons of mass destruction.

“Goals or points scored matter, but so do assists. That’s at least three now for Senators Lugar and Nunn,” Helmke wrote.

Lugar and Nunn have been nominees for the peace award over the years. Helmke, a Fort Wayne native who teaches strategic communications and public policy management at Trine University in Angola, said he nominated them in 2012 and this year.

“I got to know many Norwegian officials because of the Nunn-Lugar program,” Helmke said in an email. “Norway was the only NATO country with a Soviet boundary. Hundreds of former Soviet nuclear subs are stranded like dead whales along the shorelines of the North Sea.”

Brian Francisco is The Journal Gazette’s Washington editor.