Finnish President Sauli Niinistö offered this week to host a summit for U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to sit down and settle their differences, declaring that his country is “always ready to offer its good services if asked.”
Trump’s staff has blocked off three days at the end of his July visit to the UK and Brussels for the potential meeting. Finland’s proximity to Russia would allow Putin to return to Moscow in time for the final World Cup match. Niinistö is hoping for better luck this time, as last year’s attempt to sit the leaders down at the Arctic nations’ summit fell through.
Helsinki has been the traditional location of talks between the United States and Russia. In 1975, President Gerald Ford traveled to the Finnish capital to sign the Helsinki Accord that eased relations between the U.S. and Soviet Union. In 1990, George H.W. Bush sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev to discuss the end of the U.S.S.R.
National Security Advisor John Bolton hailed the idea of a summit following his recent trip to Moscow, noting that both leaders “think they may be able to find constructive solutions” to their differing policy visions.
President Trump himself seems pleased at the idea of sitting down with Putin, saying that several hours of talks would be “good to the world.” Putin, who has repeatedly denied allegations of having interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, discussed Syria, the denuclearization of North Korea, and Russian involvement in the Ukraine with Bolton earlier.
During his meeting with Putin, Bolton reaffirmed American sanctions on Russia in response to their annexation of Crimea. Putin told Bolton that he is interested in “full-fledged relations based on equality and mutual respect.”
Playing host this year’s World Cup, Russia has been in the international spotlight. Since opening a bridge from mainland Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, Putin has been under close scrutiny despite his actions in Crimea enjoying 70 percent approval among Russians.
A Trump-Putin meeting in Finland — if it were to happen — would be yet another foreign policy coup for the U.S. president.
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