A prestigious prize related to nuclear disarmament that has been given to Americans and Russians in the past has been awarded to a German, Wolfgang Ischinger, for the first time. The Nunn-Lugar Award for Promoting Nuclear Security honored Ischinger, a 71-year-old former diplomat, at the annual Munich Security Conference this month.
The prize “recognizes individuals and institutions whose work has helped to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and reduce the risks of their use,” according to the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who originated the award and presented it to Ischinger in Munich on Feb. 16.
The conference, regarded as a foremost gathering of foreign leaders and security experts, wrapped up on Feb. 18, after debates about nonproliferation on the Korean peninsula, hot spots in the Middle East and defensive cooperation between the European Union and Britain in the post-Brexit era.
Amid the three-day conference, Ischinger, who is also its chairman, was honored with the $50,000 award. It was established in 2012 by the two Carnegie entities to honor two former United States senators, Sam Nunn, Democrat of Georgia, and Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, for their work on nuclear disarmament.
“It is a great privilege to join this stellar group of recipients — and also a continued encouragement for me and my team at the Munich Security Conference to highlight the various nuclear threats our world is facing,” Ischinger said when accepting the award. “Promoting nuclear security and reducing the risks of nuclear conflict is bound to become even more important in the years to come.”
Nunn and Lugar wrote the Nunn-Lugar Act, a 1991 law establishing the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which helped former Soviet countries to dismantle nuclear stockpiles and chemical and biological weapons. The Carnegie Corporation of New York financed policy research contributing to the legislation and its passage by the US Congress.
This year marks the fourth time the award has been given. Besides Lugar and Nunn, the previous recipients were Col. Gen. Evgeny P. Maslin of Russia and Secretary of Defense William J. Perry of the US, in 2016; and Lord Desmond Browne of Britain and Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov of Russia, in 2015.
Thomas H. Kean, a former governor of New Jersey and board chairman of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, presented the award with Nunn, a co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., that was founded by Nunn and Ted Turner, the American philanthropist.
Ischinger started his career in the cabinet of UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in 1973 and joined West Germany’s foreign service two years later. He then served as deputy foreign minister from 1998 until his appointment as German ambassador to the US in 2001. From 2006 to 2008, he became Germany’s ambassador to Britain. He also led the German delegation during the Bosnian peace talks and Kosovo crisis.
Ischinger said he would use the $50,000 prize to strengthen the work of the Munich security conference foundation.
“The Nunn-Lugar Award pays tribute to Ambassador Ischinger’s abilities as a skillful negotiator whose inexhaustible efforts have spanned more than four decades of peacemaking,” Kean said at the presentation. “Through his leadership of the Munich Security Conference, the ambassador has provided the international community with a critically important forum for grappling with the fear and uncertainty caused by the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the escalation of threats.”
In response to a request for comment from the German mission to the UN regarding Ischinger, it said, “Over more than four decades of public service in several high-level positions, Ambassador Ischinger has left an indelible mark on German foreign policy.”
[Full disclosure: The Carnegie Corporation of New York is a primary funder of PassBlue.]