Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) proposed Thursday that the U.S. and Russia should plan a joint takeover of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile if Syrian President Assad's regime falls or loses control of its chemical weapon stockpile. Lyndon LaRouche has said that these chemical weapons are largely or totally a non-issue, but it is of interest that Lugar counterposed cooperative bilateral action with Russia, to Obama's threat of a US invasion of Syria,— directed against Russia,— on the chemical weapons pretext.
Lugar, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and co-author of the Nunn-Lugar nuclear arms reduction agreement between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., was interviewed on MSNBC yesterday by Andrea Mitchell. Just back from talks with Russian Deputy Defense Ministers and Foreign Affairs experts, Lugar had been in Moscow this month to build support for the reauthorization of his legislation that allows U.S. financial and technical support for dismantling nuclear weapons. Lugar reported that he had "taken advantage" of being in Moscow to discuss a different path on the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile, and seek a breakthrough on how to defuse the danger posed by the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons. "There is a general fear of a red line being drawn" on the Syrian chemical weapons, which could lead to a U.S. attack on Syria," Lugar said. "I'm suggesting a bilateral plan" where the U.S. and Russia could jointly destroy the chemical weapons.
Lugar said, "Russia is a great power, and has a lot of experience with chemical weapons. We would plan together for a contingency, if the Assad regime falls, or, if there is a general disintegration of order in Syria, we would be prepared, as two nations, to take over those chemical weapons and destroy them, because we want to have stronger relations with Russia. It would be good to be with Russia on the Syrian question."
Responding to the question of whether the Russians were willing, Lugar said, "This is why I took the opportunity in Moscow to forge a different path. Russia has experience in working with weapons of mass destruction. We have a lot of experience with Russia in doing this. We are committed — both our countries — to get rid of all [emphasis in original-ed.] of our chemical weapons, and we've helped the Russians at such a— a big plant, now, to keep going through tons of the stuff even as we are speaking today.
"Therefore, leaving aside the debate which preceeded, it seemed to me that this was an opportunity [emphasis in original] for a breakthrough, and at least the reaction of some Russians, was that this was very interesting. Others said, after all, Syria is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention. They own the weapons, and so they do. I think there is a general fear, and President Obama has expressed, that a red line is there, if the weapons get used or removed, the U.S. might take action, and that would be a unilateral action. I'm suggesting, if possible, bilateral planning and bilateral action."
Andrea Mitchell posed GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's characterization that "'Russia is our biggest adversary'" to Lugar. "No, I don't agree with that," Lugar said. "As [Foreign Affairs expert] Tom Pickering said, 'We've been kicking the shins of each other for years; now we need to find ways to work together,' and it will not be easy. The Nunn-Lugar program, where the Russians literally invited us to come in and destroy the weapons that were aimed at us for 40 years, is a breakthrough of the sort no one [emphasis in original] anticipated. I'm suggesting we need some more breakthroughs. But that is going to require some tough diplomatic work. So I'm offering a suggestion, but it's not the only one." Lugar said that he "had not had the opportunity" yet to discuss this with the White House or the State Department, since "We just got back from our travels," but "I hope we'll have some conversations."
Republican Richard Lugar was a leading opponent of Blair's Iraq War, and Obama's Libya war. He was defeated in the primary election by a Tea Party candidate with massive PAC funding last Spring, and will not return to the Senate in 2013.
Meanwhile, The Hill reports that Republicans such as Rep. Ed Royce (CA), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Non-Proliferation Subcommittee, have proposed that the U.S. instead work with Jordan and Turkey to take over Syria's chemical weapons if the situation gets out of control, instead of Russia.