This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was given to President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. That may have seemed an odd choice to some, since his effort to establish some sort of lasting peace with FARC wasn’t exactly a roaring success. (But the New York Times generously notes that sometimes you should win the award just for trying.) At that same time that the Nobel prize was being deliberated and handed out, a different peace prize was also being announced. It’s the Hugo Chavez Prize for Peace and Sovereignty, bestowed by the government of Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro revealed the winner this week and it was… Vladimir Putin. Nope. I’m not even kidding. (Washington Post)

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro bestowed on Putin the Hugo Chávez Prize for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples. Putin can put it on his mantel beside China’s Confucius Peace Prize, which he won in 2011.

Maduro, whose South American nation has been reeling amid a massive economic crisis, announced the prize during the unveiling of a statue (designed by a Russian artist) of his deceased predecessor, Chávez, in the latter’s home town of Sabaneta.

Referencing Putin, Maduro said the prize should be given to “a leader that I believe is the most outstanding there is in the world today, a fighter for peace, for balance, and a builder of a pluripolar, multicentric world.”

It’s easy enough to simply mock this award as a stunt designed to flatter an ally which Maduro desperately needs. This makes about as much sense as giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama in 2009. Putin has directed more warfare – either directly or by proxy – in various troubled spots around the globe than most world leaders could ever dream of and he’s constantly rattling sabers and setting the stage for more.

But leaving aside the absurdity of this distinguished honor for a moment, there are signals which indicate that this award was part of a larger picture which came out of the World Energy Congress in Istanbul on Monday. That conclave it turning out to be quite the news generator and little of it has to do with actual energy policy. We already discussed the disturbing meeting which Putin had with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan after that conference and what it might portend. Now it turns out that Putin had other meetings on his dance card during the conference and one of them was with Maduro. Oh, look… here’s a charming photo op from the event.

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Those who have been around the political scene for a while no doubt remember the old Axis of Evil which was frequently under discussion. These days the players have shuffled around a bit, but there are still some seriously dubious actors on the world stage who bear watching. Russia appears to be aggressively building alliances with Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Turkey right now. That’s a 21st century boys club that can cause a lot of trouble if they put their collective minds to it.

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