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Former US Senator Richard Lugar, foreign policy expert, dies

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AP Indianapolis
Former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican foreign policy sage known for leading efforts to help the former Soviet states dismantle and secure much of their nuclear arsenal, but whose reputation for working with Democrats cost him his final campaign, died Sunday. He was 87.
Lugar died at the Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute in Virginia from complications related to chronic inflammatory demylinating polyneuropathy, or CIPD, a rare neurological disorder, the Lugar Center in Washington said in a statement announcing his death.
The statement said his wife, four sons, and their families were with him "throughout his short illness at the hospital."

A soft-spoken and thoughtful former Rhodes Scholar, Lugar dominated Indiana politics during his 36 years in the US Senate. That popularity gave him the freedom to concentrate largely on foreign policy and national security matters a focus highlighted by his collaboration with Democratic Senator Sam Nunn on a programme under which the US paid to dismantle and secure thousands of nuclear warheads and missiles in the former Soviet states after the Cold War ended.
He served for decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, twice as chairman, where he helped steer arms reduction pacts for the presidential administrations of George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, supported an expansion of NATO and favored aid to Nicaragua's Contra rebels.
Lugar tried to translate his foreign policy expertise into a 1996 presidential run, where his slogan was "nuclear security and fiscal sanity".
But his campaign for the GOP nomination went badly from the start. His kickoff rally began just hours after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, and he struggled to build name recognition and support.
He withdrew a year into the race after failing to win a single convention delegate, but not before eerily foreshadowing the threat of terrorism that would become all too real on September 11, 2001.
Three of his television ads depicted mushroom clouds and warned of the growing danger of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist groups.
Lugar's time as a Washington foreign policy expert was the highlight of a political career that began with his election to the Indianapolis school board in the early 1960s.
It was there that he caught the eye of city GOP leaders, who encouraged him to run for mayor in 1967.
He served two terms at the city's helm, leading the unification of Indianapolis and its suburban communities in Marion County, which solidified the city's tax base and added so many Republican voters that Democrats weren't able to win the mayor's office again for more than 30 years.
He also started efforts to revive the city's downtown with construction of Market Square Arena, which in turn helped bring the Indiana Pacers into the NBA and spurred Indianapolis' development as a sports city that culminated in the 2011 Super Bowl. He was referred to as "Richard Nixon's favourite mayor" for backing the move of federal programs to local governments.
He first ran for Senate in 1974, narrowly losing to Senator Birch Bayh in a Democratic landslide after the Watergate scandal. He ran again two years later and easily unseated three-term Democratic Sen. Vance Hartke, launching a 35-year Capitol Hill career that made him Indiana's longest-serving senator.
He built a reputation as someone willing to work across the aisle and showed he could buck his party, notably with two major disagreements with President Ronald Reagan.
In 1986, Reagan was inclined to accept the rigged election that would have kept Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in office. But Lugar went to the islands as an election observer and said Reagan was misinformed. Lugar's stand shifted US support to the ultimate winner, Corazon Aquino, bringing down Marcos.
In another break with Reagan, Lugar pushed through Congress - over the president's veto - the economic sanctions that Nelson Mandela said played a crucial role in overthrowing white minority rule in South Africa.
His foreign policy work didn't sit well with everyone. Sen. Jesse Helms ousted him as the top Republican on the foreign relations committee in 1986 as being "too internationalist."

At home, Lugar remained the Indiana GOP's most popular figure, trouncing his opponents by winning at least two-thirds of the vote in four straight elections.
Democrats considered him so invincible that they didn't nominate a challenger for the 2006 election.
He was the top Republican on the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee when he first worked with Obama, taking the then-Illinois senator with him to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan in 2005 to visit weapon dismantlement sites. He then co-sponsored 2007 legislation with Obama on eliminating stockpiles of shoulder-fired missiles.

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First Published: Apr 28 2019 | 10:10 PM IST

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