President Donald Trump called Russia, the EU and China as “foes” as he gets ready to have a head to head meeting with Vladimir Putin at a summit as Moscow’s alleged manipulation of the 2016 US election has become a hot topic.
Monday’s summit in Helsinki will offer Putin, a former KGB spymaster, and Trump the chance to get the measure of each other on an array of fronts including Syria, Ukraine, Iran and nuclear disarmament, according to i24 News.
Trump flew into Helsinki from Scotland on Sunday after lumping Russia together with the European Union and China as US enemies, in an interview aired on the eve of his first one-on-one summit with the Kremlin boss, according to i24 News.
“Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union but they’re a foe. Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive,” he told CBS on Saturday.
President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev held talks at the same venue in 1990.
The day will start when Trump and the first lady will join Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and his wife, Jenni Haukio, for breakfast at Mantyniemi, another presidential residence in Helsinki where the couple lives most of the time, The Washington Post reports. Niinisto also will hold a bilateral meeting with Putin.
Finland, a Nordic nation of 5.5 million, has a long legacy of hosting U.S.-Soviet and U.S. Russian summits thanks to its geographic location and perceived neutrality.
The last time a summit brought presidential entourages from Moscow and Washington to Helsinki was in March 1997, when U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin held talks on arms control and NATO expansion, according to The Washington Post.
In June, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, in a manor house owned by the Finnish state to exchange views on U.S.-Russia military relations, Syria and international security, according to The Washington Post.
Other notable officials will be present too this week, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who will meet at the Presidential Palace on Monday.
Sari Autio-Sarasmo of the University of Helsinki’s Aleksanteri Institute said the Finnish capital and Vienna, the capital of Austria, were important conduits between the East and the West during the Cold War, according to The Washington Post.
While both European cities were centers of espionage, Helsinki specialized in relaying information and acting as a go-between for world’s two superpowers.
“As a member of the European Union, Finland doesn’t anymore emphasize its neutrality, but strong expertise, particularly on Russia, and good location make Finland a very useful meeting place,” said Autio-Sarasmo, who studies Cold War history.
U.S. President Gerald Ford and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev met in Helsinki in 1975 to sign the landmark Helsinki Accords, a watershed commitment to peace, security and human rights, according to The Washington Post.