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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 13th, 2013
05:43 PM ET

Russia turned down offer to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons last year

Former senator Richard Lugar was in Moscow last year, pushing for the U.S. and Russia to team up and get rid of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The Russians, oddly enough, declined.

"I suggested this is a time we both respect each other, we ought to think about the Syrian weapons, which even at that time were vulnerable to being picked up by somebody else," said Lugar. "At that time, the (Russian) ministry was not enthusiastic about it, although they didn't forget about it."

The former senator is president of The Lugar Center, a non-profit that focuses on getting rid of chemical and nuclear weapons.

At the time of Lugar's proposal, the Syrian civil war was already ongoing. The chemical weapons were, as they are today, not safe and scattered throughout the country.

But at the time, Russia was "tired of having Americans around. They said, we don't need your money anymore and so forth," said Lugar.

"I think they reconsidered. The foreign office was never quite that negative. On our side, it wasn't too much movement on the situation. As a matter of fact, it came as a total surprise, but I think it's a transactional situation in which President Putin, President Assad believe essentially that Assad is going to stay in Syria," said Lugar.

Unless something terrible, like a U.S. strike against Syria happens.

Experts and lawmakers have voiced concerns that it would be difficult to secure Syria's chemical weapons in the middle of the ongoing civil war. But Lugar said advanced technology could be used.

"The United States has developed excellent technology," said Lugar, "mobile units that can go out into the field and destroy chemical weapons, I’m told five to 25 tons a day, as a matter of fact. This is being presented as almost an insurmountable obstacle. Granted, the firing of everybody around is a problem ... and how we work with the international community."

For more of our interview with former Sen. Richard Lugar, watch the video above.

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