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Monday's papers: Focus on the Trump-Putin summit

Not surprisingly, the Finnish newspaper press today is filled with news of the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Donald Trump ja Vladimir Putin
Trump and Putin met in Vietnam last November. Image: Mikhail Klimentyev / AFP

On Monday morning, the Finnish media was providing readers with details of the arrival of President Trump on Sunday evening, and lots of speculation about what the summit may, or may not achieve.

The newsstand tabloid Ilta-Sanomat explains to its readers that there are five reasons that the Trump-Putin meeting today is so important.

The paper notes that although the experts do not expect concrete action to come out of the summit, the meeting still has significance for world peace. It quotes the head of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Teija Tiilikainen, as saying that there is a crucial need for dialogue between these great powers.

Tiilikainen's list of reasons why this summit is so important starts off with the expectation that it will strengthen security for the whole world. It is, she says, an opening in relations between the two countries that are at odds over so many issues.

The need to address the strained relations between Russia and the USA is the second reason on her list, followed by the sensible idea that the leaders of the two nations should be on speaking terms. According to Tiilikainen, this is important for Finland and other small nations, "Otherwise the risks are too great. When there are conflicts and differing views, but no functioning dialogue, it feeds negative images of the other".

The world is changing, and global power arrangements are realigning. US dominance is being challenged. For this reason as well, Tiilikainen points out, The US needs to be on better terms with Russia.

And, the final point Teija Tiilikainen makes to Ilta-Sanomat is that there need to be a mechanism to prevent the escalation of military tensions. An example she gives is the important role that arms limitation talks have in relations between these two nuclear powers.

A ”new Yalta”?

The nation's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat lists the issues it assumes will be on the summit agenda as being Ukraine, Syria and Russian interference in US elections.

This paper turned to two international experts for commentary: American foreign policy analyst and former US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and Heather Conley director of the Europe Program at Center for Strategic &International Studies.

Talbott told the paper that in his view, there could be no better host for today's summit than Finland, saying that Finland is an important security policy and ideological partner for the United States in a region where Russia behaves in a defiant manner.

Conley's analysis is that this summit has been arranged because Trump wanted to meet Putin. "He believes that a personal relationship is enough to solve problems," she told HS.

In its Sunday edition, Helsingin Sanomat published an English-language open letter to Trump and Putin from two of its journalists, columnist Saska Saarikoski and the paper's US correspondent Laura Saarikoski.

While taking a welcoming note, it also expressed concern that the US and Russia may bypass Europeans in decisions that most affect Europe.

"As the summit nears, there have been warnings that the US may make real concessions in exchange for a bit of glib publicity and empty promises. Some have even raised the specter of a new Yalta where Trump and Putin would divide the world between them in spheres of influence. This worry shows the kind of dread the inconsistent policy of the United States has caused. Hopefully everyone will nevertheless understand that European matters can no longer be agreed on over the heads of Europeans."

Trump, Niinistö and the Baltics

Iltalehti writes that the agenda at a breakfast meeting between Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö this morning is expected to include the topic of military exercises in the Baltic region.

Trump's official programme starts with breakfast and discussions at the president's residence of Mäntyniemi. Last week, President Niinistö said that he intends to bring up the Baltic exercises issue with Trump.

According to this paper, it was unclear from Trump's remarks in Brussels last week if he plans to discuss a possible end to these exercises with Putin, as well.

Other matters of interest that Iltalehti expects the Trump-Putin talks to touch upon are Syria, Ukraine, disarmament and Russian "influence" in US elections.

Last week, Niinistö noted Trump's comments on the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline project, and told the media that this is also a topic that would be worthwhile covering in his meeting with the US president.

Pampering the press

Turun Sanomat carries a STT Finnish News Agency report from Finlandia Hall, the site of the press centre in Helsinki for journalists covering today's summit.

It reports that as of Sunday evening, the press centre was for the most part still relaxed, and with tables groaning under the weight of complimentary food: Karelian pasties, strawberries, fresh peas, sweet rolls and blueberry pie.

The media has also been provided with sauna facilities that have been set up in the courtyard.

Vesa Häkkinen of the Foreign Ministry's press department estimates that there are some 1700 to 1800 journalists in Helsinki to cover the Trump-Putin summit.

Work and break spaces in Finlandia Hall have been decked out with Finnish design products. The journalists have free use of Helsinki's public transport system.

Where to catch a glimpse

Coverage in the tabloid Iltalehti includes advice for anyone in the Finnish capital today about where they may be able to catch a glimpse of one or more of the presidents.

Helsinki police say that the best spots to observe the motorcades are on the Esplanade not far from the Presidential Palace, from the steps of Parliament on Mannerheimintie, and from the hill of Tähtitorninmäki.

The paper also reminds local residents that the use of balconies is restricts along the routes of the motorcades. The Helsinki officer in charge of security arrangements adds that it’s not even a good idea to watch from windows overlooking the routes.

Iltalehti provides a map marked with the best sites for celebrity watchers to hang out today.

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