Vladimir Putin: An Unlikely Nobel Laureate

Posted on October 24, 2013 by


Following the seemingly emerging trend of bestowing prestigious international awards to unlikely and contentious candidates, this year’s Nobel Peace prize will go to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Praised for “its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons,” and in light of recent transgressions in Syria, this appears at first a symbolic appreciation for their thankless task that lies ahead amidst the civil war.

Why then, was there such uproar from Russians, and others, alike? Why was it labelled by the journalist and historian, William Engdahl, a “political dodge?” They insist that the only valid recipients, if the award is to praise the resolution of Syria’s international crisis, are Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov.

Clearly this is a controversy in itself, for beyond the realms of Pravda, nobody disputes that Putin is no angel. Being almost the sole provider for the Assad regime, the recent memories of his wars in Georgia, and before that, Chechnya, afford him the scorn of diplomats and journalists, while his endorsement of homophobic legislation and suppression of dissidents attract more international reproach. Indeed, it can be said that in inheriting as unpopular, and unwinnable war as Chechnya he and his Nobel-winning counterpart, Obama, are quite alike. However, in Syria it is a stark fact that while the US was gearing up for intervention (with France in tow, apparently only “hours” from striking), Putin’s intercedence is the solitary reason that the missiles remained in their silos.

By rewarding those who were sent at Putin’s behest the Nobel Committee has, perhaps intentionally, unearthed something. The Western world is not ready for the hypocrisy of Putin, the Nobel laureate; be that for his record, or for his non-Western politics. For him to be deemed ‘beyond the pale’ when considering the European Union’s 2012 award (amidst the present social and economic turmoil), and Obama’s 2009 award, after only nine months in office (and something of a mixed record in his pursuit of peace), is only made more remarkable.

Whether history books will duly accredit Putin with disarming the Syrian crisis will remain to be seen; the more immediate concern is, with awards like these, how long the Nobel Committee can guarantee its standing as a credible, truly international institution.

Image CC, courtesy of World Economic Forum, Flickr.