BREAKING: The Summit: Why Choose Finland For the Special Meeting? The Hidden History of Helsinki

Finland is preparing for the Russian-US summit. Putin and Trump are to meet there on Monday, July 16th. History shows that Helsinki is used to summits talks. But what was their outcome? How does this place influence them?

Stas Natanzon has looked into it.

"August 1st, 1975.”

On August 1st, 1975, leaders from 35 European states, the USA, and the USSR appeared on this stage.

“This date will be written in gold in the scrolls of the history of mankind for good.”

US President Gerald Ford sat here, followed by the other states in French alphabetical order: Czechoslovakia, Turkey, the USSR (represented by Leonid Brezhnev), followed only by Yugoslavia.

“The Final Act is being signed by General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev.”

An assistant gave the thick folder to the leader one after another. Later the paper was called the Helsinki Final Act, the Helsinki Declaration, the Agreement on Security and Cooperation in Europe; the paper which laid the basis for the world order for years ahead. The hall was packed with journalists. It was a groundbreaking event.

On July 16th, 2018, there will also be not enough room to swing a cat here. The press center of the meeting between Putin and Trump will be located in the same hall.

Quiet Finland has hosted Russian-US talks on several occasions. It was here in 1969 that the negotiations started to sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. And in 1990, shortly before the collapse of the USSR, the meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and George H. W. Bush took place here.

—I suppose this photo was taken before the press conference?

Johanna Toolonen, director of Congress Palace "Finland":


—They're putting on earphones.


Congress Palace "Finland" has the photos of that meeting.

—I guess Russian and American leaders like to meet here.

Johanna Toolonen, director of Congress Palace "Finland":

—Yes, we're a small neutral country, trying to orient both eastwards and westwards.

The Finnish president even allowed the use of his place in Helsinki for the Gorbachev-Bush summit. But the American Secret Service changed it dramatically. They even brought bulletproof glass from the USA, behind which the leaders hid. In this photo, we can see the English word "inside."

Markku Kangaspuro, University of Helsinki: "For such talks, both sides bring their own equipment and even food, and, of course, many security systems.”

By the way, both sides are already bringing equipment for the meeting between Putin and Trump. The Russian president's new cortege of Aurus vehicles has also been delivered to Helsinki.

In 1997, the Finnish capital hosted the meeting between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin.

Boris Yeltsin, Russian president (1991-1999): "We'll have hard and serious talks with President Clinton."

The Russian president had recently undergone an operation, the American president broke his leg and used a wheelchair. Both had been elected for a second term. The meeting focused on NATO expansion in exchange for Russia being invited to G7, which turned into G8 for some years.

Traditional soup with salmon or roasted liver with mashed potatoes? This historic place is just 600 feet from the presidential palace, which is often reserved for summits in Helsinki. In 1997, after the talks between Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton, the leaders wanted to go here, but the visit was canceled at the last minute. They said that Clinton's leg hurt and he didn't feel like going out. Since then, this place has had a Russian menu just in case.

The upcoming meeting is going to be no less important for the world as the previous ones.

—Has the press center been reserved only for Monday or for Tuesday as well?

Johanna Toolonen, director of Congress Palace "Finland":

—It's reserved for Tuesday as well. But we don't know exactly yet.

—It's unclear how long the talks will take, they may end late at night.

—Of course, it is possible. We had only two weeks to prepare. We still don't have all of the details.

Timo Huovinen, Executive Producer at YLE: "More than 1,500 journalists have been accredited for the meeting by now. We still don't know the total number as journalists continue to apply."

So far even the exact venue for talks in Helsinki is kept secret.


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