“US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be meeting in the Finnish Capital Helsinki on 16th July, 2018”, in an announcement by the White House and the Kremlin. The meet will be the first formal meeting between the two leaders, they have met twice informally, once in Vietnam and another time in Germany amidst international gatherings. The time and venue was fixed after US national security adviser John Bolton’s visit to Moscow.
The venue which has a historic accord for dialogue between the two countries also comes as a convenience for both leaders. President Trump will be in Europe for the July 11 – 13 summit of NATO leaders and will be visiting Britain after that. For Putin, Helsinki is a two hour flight away which gives him time to address the closing ceremony of FIFA World Cup 2018 on July 15 (currently being held in Russia) and depart Russia for the summit comfortably.
The two countries are expected to hold dialogues to ease the mounting tension between the two countries, which is reported to be in one of the lowest stages since the dissolution of USSR. Tensions have risen since Obama’s administration imposed several sanctions on Russia following their annexation of Crimea. It is also alleged Russia meddled in the 2016 American elections, an allegation Russia has constantly denied. Moscow’s support to Syria and the backing of Bashar al-Assad’s regime also does not sit well with the U.S.
President Trump talking to reporters in Wisconsin said, “the world needs to start getting along” and hinted that Russia and the US would benefit if relations were bettered.
The summit could also irritate U.S. allies, such as Britain, who want to isolate Putin, or Ukraine who are nervous about what they see as Trump’s overly friendly attitude toward the Russian leaders.
Why is Helsinki a historic place for US-Russia relations?
Helsinki has been instrumental towards peace between the two nations – in 1975, at one of the peak periods of the Cold War, leaders of the US, USSR and 33 other countries met to address the mounting tensions between the two countries. The summit was largely held because of the rising threats of a nuclear war between the world’s two most powerful nuclear nations. It helped thaw relations between the two countries.
Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George H. W. Bush also met in Helsinki in 1990, just ahead of the dissolution of the USSR, to discuss the escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf, which eventually led to the first Gulf War.