Russian President Vladimir Putin, known for his extravagant animal adventures and standing up against the West, could be in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In a press conference on Tuesday, a group of his supporters has announced their nomination of the president for the prestigious prize.
The International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation of Peoples of the World argued in the press conference that President Putin was much more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than US President Barack Obama, who had received the prize in 2009.
“Barack Obama is the man who has initiated and approved the United States’ aggressive actions in Iraq and Afghanistan – now he is preparing for an invasion into Syria. He bears this title nevertheless,” said Iosif Kobzon, a famous popstar as well as a member of the Russian parliament who approves Putin’s nomination.
“Our president, who tries to stop the bloodshed and who tries to help the conflict situation with political dialogue, is more worthy of this high title,” he added.
It must be noted, however, that it was former US President George W. Bush who initiated both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not Obama, who presided over the US drawdown of military operations.
The appointment of President Putin does not come without controversy as the world has also witnessed many human rights abuses under the Russian president’s administration, including the passing of anti-gay laws as well as a brutal war against Chechnyan separatists, which lasted nine years and is estimated to have killed up to 50,000 of mostly Chechnyan civilians.
Beslan Kobakhia, vice president of the Russian advocacy group, says Putin’s leadership on the international stage towards a peaceful solution that makes him deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Kobakhia further argued that Putin’s resolve to fix the latest crisis in Syria shows that Putin is “a wise and measured politician who really cares about total peace on Earth, which fully corresponds to the description of a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.”
“Vladimir Putin did everything possible for the peace settlement in Syria. Putin led by his personal example in his devotion to peace - not just with his words, but with his actions. At the cornerstone of all his life there are no short-term political goals or vested corporate interests of his own country, but only interest in maintaining peace in the whole world,” he said, adding that that if it weren’t for Putin, the two-year conflict in Syria would have escalated into World War III.
While it is notable that President Putin offered a last-minute solution to the political crisis, seemingly stopping the US-led forces from invading Syria, this was only after the US and allies threatened for weeks to attack Bashar al-Assad’s forces in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on Khan al Assal, a village outside Aleppo, which was estimated to have killed up to 1,400.
President Putin immediately threw himself into the diplomatic role in response to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks in a press conference, after reporters had asked Kerry if there was any other way to avoid a military confrontation in Syria. Kerry offered al-Assad a way out of the crisis when he said, “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it.”
Putin jumped on Kerry’s statement, which was seen as al-Assad’s last chance to avoid an international military response, and started working with the United Stated to hash out a plan to pry all al-Assad’s devastating chemical weapons from his hands.
Despite their praise of President Putin, Kobakhia and Kobzon both failed to mention that is in fact under Putin’s leadership that any meaningful UN resolution in the past to stop the slaughter of civilians in Syria was vetoed by Russia, who used its seat on the security council to protect its close ally, the al-Assad government. Meanwhile, Russia continues to supply weapons to al-Assad’s regime, which has been killing thousands of civilians since peaceful protests turned into a violent uprising lasting over two years.
The claim that President Putin is a “peace keeper” also seems to overlook his prior military aggressions in Russia’s own neighborhood. Under Putin, Russia invaded the neighboring country of Georgia in 2008, after the Georgian government attacked separatist forces in the region of South Ossetia. Russia took advantage of the clashes to attempt to annex the region, which is loyal to Russia but officially Georgian territory. As Russian ground troops moved further into Georgia, Putin claimed the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was unfit to govern the region. Russian troops then briefly occupied the non-contested Georgian cities of Poti, Gori, Senaki and Zugdidi. With European moderation between the two countries, the Russian troops later pulled out.
According to The Independent, the activist group ASUCPW is on the list of those approved to make Nobel Peace Prize nominations and according to the vice president of the organization, Kobakhiya, this letter of recommendation was received by the committee on 16 September, he announced on Tuesday.
The letter read: “Being the leader of one of the leading nations of the world, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin makes efforts to maintain peace and tranquility not only on the territory of his own country but also actively promotes settlement of all conflicts arising on the planet,” the New York Times reported.
Kobzon, a 76-year-old Soviet-era crooner is no fan of the United States, which has regularly refused him entry, although the embassy does not comment on the reasons. In Russia he is long rumored to have connections to organized crime, which he hotly denies.
Kobzon said Putin did not influence the nomination. “Being a modest person, will refuse to comment on it,” he said.