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Home / World / Helsinki, the city that was selected for the Putin-Trump meeting, has a history of US-Russia summits

Helsinki, the city that was selected for the Putin-Trump meeting, has a history of US-Russia summits



The White House and the Kremlin have announced that the Finnish capital of Helsinki will be the venue for President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin's first official summit on 16 July.

The election is not surprising in many ways. Helsinki has a long history of hosting summits between US and Russian leaders that spanned the Cold War and have a long tradition as a bridge between the superpowers.

  PHOTO: President Donald Trump meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg on 7 July 201<div class="e3lan e3lan-in-post1"><script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script>
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President Donald Trump meets at the G-20 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, July 07, 2017.

Finland had to deal with his massive neighbor, from which it became independent only in 1917 and with which it had to wage war twice in order to maintain this independence, distinguish between a delicate balance between the desire to be near Europe and the cordial relations with Russia. Finland, for example, remained outside NATO, and during the Cold War it became a neutral ground during the conflict between East and West, where the presidents of the USSR and the United States met. Since the end of the Cold War, Helsinki has maintained its role as an international mediator and has recently hosted discussions on North Korea and high-level contacts between Russian and US military forces.

The most important US-Soviet summit hosted by the city was in 1975. During this time, President Gerald Ford met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev for talks that spawned the "Helsinki Accords" – when the US and US the Soviet Union gathered 35 nations to forge a new understanding of the Cold War – where countries that pledged to respect the borders after World War II, and the USSR were forced to sign human rights conventions.

In 1990, a US-Soviet summit took place in Helsinki, this time between President George H. W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The two met at a much different time than today – the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia and the US embraced each other when the Cold War ended.

  PHOTO: A view of the seafront, the Alas Sea Pool oasis in the foreground, the Market Square and the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, June 28, 2018. Onni Ojala / Lehtikuva via AP [19659005] A view of the Seafront Promenade, Alas Sea Pool Oasis in foreground, Market Square and Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, June 28, 2018.

Bush used the meeting to harden Gorbachev's support for sanctions against Iraq Saddam Hussein was threatened by the Gulf War. Gorbachev's willingness to go with America was then noted as a remarkable change as the USSR and the US merged into an international crisis symbolizing the end of the Cold War.

Two years earlier, President Ronald Reagan also used Helsinki as a stopover to prepare for a grand summit in Moscow with Gorbachev. Reagan stopped in Helsinki in front of the summit to relax. As a Los Angeles Times official said, they chose Finland because it is "a place where it's not hard to lift."

If you look at the past summits of Helsinki, you will notice how some themes recur through them.

The last major summit between a President of the Russian Federation and the US in Helsinki took place in 1997 between President Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first post-Soviet president.

The Clinton-Yeltsin Summit focused on disputes over arms control treaties and the extension of NATO to the borders of Russia. At the time, the summit was notable for the breakthroughs that the two sides made, especially in arms control, with both willing to reduce their deployed strategic warheads by a third. Yeltsin also reluctantly accepted NATO's expansion of Russia's former Soviet satellites. These and other missile-related concessions prompted the Russian Communists, then and now, to condemn the summit as the counterpart to the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I in 1919 and set a degrading champion peace on Germany.

  PHOTO: President Donald Trump Claps to a Campaign Event on June 27, 2018 in Fargo, ND Evan Vucci / AP, FILE
President Donald Trump Claps to a Campaign Event, June 27, 2018, in Fargo, ND

Nineteen years later, both themes are again in the foreground of the Trump Putin summit. This time, however, the Russian leader seems to have no inclination to admit. NATO enlargement and the establishment of a US missile defense system were two key grievances in Putin's government, and he shares the view of the Communists that their acceptance is a humiliation.

At the summit, Trump and Putin conjured up the specter of a new arms race, and the US and Russia are fighting over arms control agreements.

Some of the parallels also show how much has changed, but so little at the same time.

At the summit in 1997, Clinton promised to invite Russia to join the group of wealthy nations, known as the G7, which Russia later did.

Almost two decades later, now, President Trump is going to this summit to demand the same – because Russia will resume after being thrown out for invading Ukraine.


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