Q&A with Senator Richard Lugar

Senator Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, discussed Chinese President Hu Jintao's degree of control over the Chinese military, the consequences of US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Tea Party opposition to his reelection in 2012 at a Jan. 18 Monitor breakfast.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Senator Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana will face his first Republican primary challenge since 1976 in the 2012 elections.

Senator Richard Lugar, the top-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and an intelligence officer in the US Navy. He served two terms as mayor of Indianapolis and won election to the Senate in 1976. He was a guest speaker at the Jan. 18 Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C.

His challenges persuading Republicans to vote for the START treaty and other arms control measures:

"There are, I think, some members of our party who were not reconciled to arms control debates or treaties of any sort."

Chinese President Hu Jintao telling US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he was not informed about the test of a new Chinese stealth plane during Mr. Gates's visit:

"It simply leaves the question once again as to who is in charge.... This is not necessarily chaotic. This may be the Chinese system. But nevertheless it is one of concern to us ... as to really how far the premier can go in talking about strategic military matters or even relations with neighboring states and the Chinese reaction or ways in which we could cooperate...."

Consequences from the eventual US military withdrawal from Afghanistan:

"The controversy here will come because our ambitions for Afghanistan ... have been to provide schools for children, to provide new opportunities not only for women in society but for schoolgirls as well as schoolboys, to in essence change the focus in terms of human rights.... Our ability to do that without being on the ground ... is going to be very difficult, if not impossible. And so, however this winds up, a good many people are going to charge that Americans let the Afghans down in terms of our idealism...."

Global food challenges:

"Those looking at the world food crisis stipulate it is likely the world will have an increase of population from 6 billion to 9 billion in the next 40 years, by 2050. It is not at all clear where there are acres on this earth that are going to supply this food."

Why tea party leaders in Indiana will try to line up a single candidate to oppose Senator Lugar in the GOP primary, his first Republican primary challenge since 1976:

"There are a great number of Americans, not just in Indiana, who are genuinely angry about how things have turned out for them.... In essence they are unhappy about life in America and they want to express themselves.... The tea party people reflect a good number of people who are unhappy about a lot of things, including myself and any officeholder for that matter."

The possibility of an assault weapon ban in the wake of the mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz.:

"I voted for this in the past and probably [would] do so again, but there [is] absolutely no chance – zero – that we were going to have any such debate" in the Senate.

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