Why Finland’s Hosting of the Trump-Putin Summit Is More Than Just Cold War Nostalgia

Why Finland’s Hosting of the Trump-Putin Summit Is More Than Just Cold War Nostalgia
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a one-on-one-meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

The Finnish government took a significant gamble when it agreed to host today’s Helsinki summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. The Russian president’s meeting with his American counterpart threw U.S. and European analysts into a panic. Even relatively optimistic commentators predicted that the event would be a waste of time. Pessimists feared Putin would use it to extract major concessions from Trump on Syria or Ukraine. Finland has risked being associated with a debacle over which, despite being a good host, it has no substantive control. Why has it done so?

Many observers have assumed that the Finns simply hosted the summit out of habit. Western and Soviet-bloc diplomats regularly met in Helsinki during the Cold War. The 1975 “Helsinki Final Act,” a wide-ranging East-West agreement on security and human rights in Europe, helped pave the way for the slow decline of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellite states.

Helsinki, along with Vienna and Geneva, is thus a member of a small club of cities that are inevitably associated with a past era of great-power bargaining. All three have regained some of their old diplomatic glory in recent years. The Austrians and Swiss have shared the honors of hosting talks on the Iranian nuclear deal. Less happily, the United Nations has convened the Syrian government and opposition representatives for repeated discussions in Geneva.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.