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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Hopes Obama’s Nobel Will Aid Ties

President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday that he hoped U.S. President Barack Obama’s surprise 2009 Nobel Peace Prize would encourage the further improvement of U.S.-Russian relations.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday that Obama, just nine months into his first term in office, had won the prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” and for his “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the committee said in a statement.

The decision, which honored Obama more for words than deeds, prompted both praise and criticism around the world, including in Russia. Obama has promised to “reset” relations that were badly strained with Russia under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

“I hope that this decision will serve as an additional incentive to our work to create a new climate in international politics and promote initiatives that are fundamentally important for global security,” Medvedev said in a brief statement on the Kremlin’s web site.

Medvedev also confirmed Russia’s readiness to work on strengthening ties with the United States.

Obama said he was “surprised” and “deeply humbled” by the award.

In the hours after the announcement, Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, said choosing Obama was “an acknowledgment of the rightness of his intentions rather than certain results,” Interfax reported.

His counterpart in the Federation Council, Senator Mikhail Margelov, called the award “a credit” that Obama would have to “work on until the end of his political career,” Interfax reported.

Margelov said the Bush administration’s policies were a source of “severe disappointment” in Europe, which explained why Obama’s rhetoric was so welcome now. Both he and Kosachev are members of United Russia.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said he had seen no real results in Obama’s “verbally peaceful” policies. “It’s an advance of sorts and shows Europe’s desire to support the U.S. president in a time when his ratings at home are starting to fall,” Zyuganov said in comments posted on his party’s web site. “It’s also a sort of warning to the U.S. president not to start a war against Iran.”

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and known for making harsh anti-U.S. statements, was relatively restrained in his remarks, saying it was a mistake to award someone for making “peaceful statements” but Obama was the “dove of peace compared to George Bush,” Interfax reported. But Zhirinovsky also criticized the Nobel Committee for awarding the prize to a president and not a public activist, saying it was the duty of any president to try to preserve stability and prevent war. “You can even see a certain amount of brown-nosing,” he said.

Medvedev deserves the award just as much as Obama, said Vladimir Frolov, a government relations specialist.

“Obama won his Nobel for a number of flowery foreign policy speeches and a vision for a nuclear-free world that is not likely to take shape in his lifetime. From this perspective, Medvedev’s call in 2008 for a new, all-encompassing security architecture in Europe is a much more realistic and no less peacemaking undertaking worthy of a Nobel,” Frolov wrote in a column for The Moscow Times. (Page 11)

Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to former Finnish President Martti Achtisaari, who secured Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, prompting anger from senior Russian officials who accused the Nobel Committee of making politicized decisions.

Most European leaders said they approved of Obama’s award. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he felt “great joy,” while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent a private congratulatory letter to Obama, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said his government applauded the news.

But former Polish President Lech Walesa, who led the Solidarity trade union that toppled communism and won the prize in 1983, said the prize had been awarded prematurely, Reuters reported. “This is too soon,” he said.