A year ago, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons and within months he got the Nobel Peace Prize. This week, the world is getting some results.
The U.S. president met his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in Prague Thursday, to sign a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. It will cut the number of long-range warheads deployed by the world's two largest nuclear powers by roughly a third, to 1,550.
President Barack Obama will donate his $1.4 million 2009 Nobel Peace Prize award to 10 charities, the White House announced Thursday.
The organizations receiving the money "do extraordinary work in the United States and abroad helping students, veterans and countless others in need," Obama said in a statement. "I'm proud to support their work."
Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoen Jagland rejected suggestions from journalists that the U.S. president was getting the prize too soon.
"We hope this can contribute a little bit to enhance what he is trying to do," Jagland said.
Norway's prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, said "the exciting and important thing about this prize is that it's given to someone ... who has the power to contribute to peace."
Former recipient Mikhail Gorbachev, who won in 1990 for his efforts to end the Cold War, was among the first to offer his congratulations.
Even Obama's supporters raised questions about whether the reward was deserved, with progressives pointing to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a detention policy that still enrages civil libertarians as logical points of contention.
For Obama's critics, however, the Nobel Prize has touched a far more bitter nerve -- affirming their firmly-held beliefs that the president is more symbolism than substance and that he's accomplished little of note on the international stage except to serve as an emblem of U.S. repentance for the Bush years.
Jon Lovitz is continuing a new phase of his career: A vocal critic of President Obama. In his latest attack, Lovitz tweeted a picture apparently meant as a criticism of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.
In the tweet, Lovitz posted a picture of Obama holding the prize, which was awarded to him in 2010 amid criticism that he had not yet done enough to deserve the prestigious award. Lovitz's caption reads, "Nobel Peace Prize? You didn't earn that. Somebody else made that happen."
He lauded previous Nobel winner Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, preachers of nonviolent action. But he added, "A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms."
"To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history."
The president laid out circumstances in which war is justified — in self-defense, to come to the aid of an invaded nation, on humanitarian grounds such as when civilians are slaughtered by their own government.
President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize primarily for changing the tone of American policy, but real accomplishments are yet to come, foreign policy experts said Friday.
The Norwegian committee that awards the prize said that Obama had "captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future." Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland acknowledged that the award was more for Obama's aspirations than for his achievements: "It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve."
In making Obama the third sitting U.S. president to win the prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee praised the president's cooperative approach to global issues, a clear rebuke of the Bush administration's aversion to international organizations and treaties.
The prize comes after Obama has been in office less than nine months, and as he decides whether to send additional combat troops to Afghanistan for a war effort that will now be measured against the principles of the award.
It was just before 6 a.m. that the president learned he had won the award, said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary. The announcement by the committee caught the White House off guard. One senior administration official said that "we were quite surprised."
Some analysts have speculated that the prize could give Obama additional clout as he forms a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan and attempts to engage Iran and North Korea. Another senior administration official told CNN he hopes the White House can "use it for the positive."
During his first 100 days, President Obama also undertook a complete overhaul of America's foreign policy. He reached out to improve relations with Europe, China, Russia and open dialogue with Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba. He lobbied allies to support a global economic stimulus package. He committed an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan and set an August 2010 date for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. In more dramatic incidents, he took on pirates off the coast of Somalia and prepared the nation for an attack of the Swine Flu. For his efforts, he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.