Vladimir Putin's Nobel Peace Prize Nomination is the Latest Insult to the Notion Of Peace


Vladimir Putin is in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Let me rephrase that: Vladimir Putin is in the running to join the ranks of Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Jane Addams, Rigoberta Menchú, and Elie Wiesel. Then again, Putin is in the running to join Barack Obama, who won the Prize in 2009. The fact that Obama holds the prize puts a victory for Putin squarely within reason. We need to come to a new understanding of what the prize symbolizes, returning perhaps to what peace meant for such legendary activists as Martin Luther King Jr.

The Nobel Committee cites Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and aim to create a world without nuclear weapons as reasons for awarding him the prize. They ignored his use of drone strikes and warfare in the Middle East. His intervention does not promote peace. Rather, it adds fuel to an already raging fire. By awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee absolved him not only of the violence he had already committed, but also that which he could go on to commit.

The International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation of Peoples of the World, a Russian advocacy group, nominated Putin for the Prize because he proposed to dismantle chemical weapons and negotiated with Obama to prevent an air strike in Syria. This gesture completely erases Putin's "violent campaign against the separatists in Chechnya or the war he waged on Georgia." They absolve him of the atrocities he has committed in the same way the Nobel Committee absolved Obama.

Incredibly concerning in the nomination letter is the rationale the organization provides for nominating Putin. "[Putin], who tries to stop the bloodshed and who tries to help the conflict situation with political dialogue, is more worthy [than Obama] of this high title." Rather than arguing solely on the merits of their candidate, the organization argues that their candidate promotes peace more than a former recipient of the prize. This is concerning because peace seems to be loosely defined, as evidenced by Obama's and Putin's legacies. 

Martin Luther King Jr., who won the prize in 1964, was a proponent of non-violence, at the center of which "stands the principle of love." When responding to criticism that his activism disturbed the peace, King replied, "true peace is not the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." From this, we gather that peace is justice, is obtained through nonviolent activism, and holds love as its central, defining tenant.

When the nominees for and winners of the Nobel Prize can again uphold this philosophy, perhaps there will be hope for peace. Until then, it seems we are stuck with violence.