Apart from perhaps a small group of die-hard liberals, commentators from around the world generally agree that Barack Obama did not deserve to win the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The newly-elected President had not accomplished anything newsworthy besides beating John McCain in the race to the White House. (Many would even question if he has accomplished anything positive since 2008.) Obama’s lack of achievements did not, however, stop Europe’s love affair with the 44th President of the United States from culminating in the awarding of the prestigious prize.
An added irony was that the prize was awarded to Obama while the United States was engaged in two wars: Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, there has been little that is ‘peaceful’ about the Obama presidency, which has seen the U.S. intervene militarily in Libya, almost intervene in Syria, and bomb several other Middle Eastern countries in the ‘drone war’. What the Nobel committee was thinking when they awarded Obama the prize is open to interpretation, but there is no doubt that they would not have made the same decision today. Obama has now lost as much credibility abroad as he has at home, leaving him just as unpopular as George W. Bush, a feat few thought possible.
Putin, champion of peace?
Now, it is the Russian President’s turn to be nominated for the prize. The same ironies exist for Vladimir Putin. Despite his now-famous op-ed in the New York Times, in which he urged the United States not to get involved in Syria, Russia has been implicated in the Syrian civil war since the beginning, providing military support for Assad’s regime. Putin’s trademark aggressiveness on the foreign policy stage almost makes him seem like an odd choice for the peace prize. Relations between the Russian leader and heads of neighboring countries such as Georgia and Ukraine are at an all-time low, the latter of which has been subjected to a trade war in response to its attempts to strengthen links with the European Union.
On the other hand, few may deny that President Putin came out of the Syria crisis remarkably well. In fact, he came out looking like the opposite of Obama. Whereas our President appeared weak and indecisive, Putin looked like a leader and, perhaps more importantly, a rational person who refused to lead his nation into an international intervention sure to backfire. Indeed, some commentators are stating that Obama’s performance was so pitiful that it has led to a power vacuum in the Middle East, a vacuum that will be filled by Russia.
It is Putin’s diplomatic performance on the Syria conflict that led the Russian advocacy group, the International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation Among the Nations of the World, to nominate him for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. According to the group, President Putin played a key role in preventing a U.S. missile strike that would have resulted in a significant amount of civilian deaths and launched a UN initiative aimed at dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, actions that deserve official international recognition.
In all seriousness, there is very little chance that Putin will win or deserves to win the prize, but his nomination does show how far the prize’s prestige has fallen after it was awarded to the likes of President Obama and the European Union.