The White House announced that the president will be meeting with his Russian counterpart in Helsinki, Finland on July 16th. Helsinki has been an important meeting spot for American and Russian leaders for the last four decades. 1975 Gerald Ford and Leonid Brezhnev met there in 1975, George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in 1997.
The Ford/Brezhnev meeting was pivotal for setting up the Helsinki Accords which stabilized the Cold War and also provided a human rights framework for criticizing the Soviet Union. The 1990 and 1997 summits both took place at the peak of American triumph, when the Russian state was very much a supplicant to the world’s only superpower.
The Trump/Putin summit will be very different. Trump has a bold agenda for redefining America’s global role, a key part of which is pursuing good relations with Russia, even to the point of denying evidence of Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
The Helsinki meeting has been scheduled to occur directly after a NATO summit and Trump’s “working visit” to the U.K.—a timeline which is unlikely to smooth any feathers Trump ruffled by jetting off from the recent G7 to see Kim Jong Un. On Thursday morning the president tweeted::
Also on Thursday, Axios reported that at the G-7 meeting earlier this month Trump said, “NATO is as bad as NAFTA.” Speaking at a rally in Fargo, North Dakota on Wednesday night, the president said, “Sometimes our worst enemies are our so-called friends and allies.” Trump also said, “We love the countries of the European Union. But the European Union was set up to take advantage of the United States.”
The Helsinki summit will be a major opportunity for Trump to continue his policy of turning American foreign policy away from traditional allies and possibly deepen a new friendship.