Barack Obama will make a flying visit to Norway today to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize, just nine days after announcing a troop surge in Afghanistan.
The US president is due to arrive in Oslo following an overnight flight to attend the prize-giving ceremony and banquet during which he is expected to talk about the responsibilities of conducting a war.
Peace activists in the city are planning a 5,000-strong protest to coincide with the acceptance of the honour, the awarding of which has been seen as controversial given the US-led conflict in Afghanistan and the relatively short tenure of Mr Obama’s presidency.
White House aides said yesterday that the president had yet to finalise his speech. However, it has been suggested that the incongruous nature of the timing of the award – little more than a week after Mr Obama ordered 30,000 more soldiers to war – will not be lost on its recipient.
White House officials said he would use the opportunity to explain what it means to wage war and the place and responsibility of US leadership.
President Obama has reportedly been reading the speeches of past laureates to prepare for today’s acceptance address.
The visit to Norway is being kept as low key as possible. There will be no full-scale news conference and the president is due to jet off on Friday – ahead of a star-studded concert in his honour.
Before the acceptance ceremony, campaigners in the Norwegian capital are expected to protest outside his hotel.
In advance of his arrival, posters have cropped up around Oslo with his famous campaign placard altered to say “Change?” in a sceptical nod towards the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
The announcement in October that President Obama had won the award was greeted by praise and surprise in equal measure.
The recipient said he was “deeply humbled” but was clearly taken aback by the honour, adding: “To be honest I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures that have been honoured by this prize.”
But the Nobel Peace Prize committee cited “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”.
It attached special importance to Mr Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
“Obama has, as president, created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play,” the committee said.
In receiving the honour, Mr Obama becomes the fourth US president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and the first to do so while in power since Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
Some have questioned the wisdom behind giving it to a leader so early in his tenure, suggesting it is too early to say if he will effect change for good.
It also led to a bitter political row in the US when announced.
Opponents of the president in Washington bitterly criticised the decision. Democrats countered that the Republican Party had “thrown in its lots with the terrorists”, a reference to the fact that both Hamas and the Taliban had come out against the decision to hand the prize to Mr Obama.