President Sauli Niinistö held an hour-long phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin today.
The call was initiated by the Finns, and the two discussed bilateral relations, Arctic Council issues and the Council of Europe as well as nuclear arms control and the situation in the Sea of Azov according to a statement from the president’s office.
The two Presidents also wished each other a Happy New Year.
Regular contacts between Finnish and Russian Presidents
During his time in office, Niinistö has kept in regular contact with his Russian counterpart.
The pair met at the end of August in Sochi, when Niinstö traveled to the Black Sea resort for a one day meeting.
“These meetings are important just to maintain contact” said Russia specialist Ryhor Nizhnikau from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs FIIA at the time.
Before Sochi, the most recent meeting was in Helsinki, when Putin was in the Finnish capital for his first summit with US President Donald Trump in July.
Although the focus at that time was squarely on bilateral talks between the Russian and American sides, Niinistö also had meetings with the two superpower leaders to press the Finnish agenda of Arctic issues, Baltic Sea security, and black carbon emissions.
“The Russians felt at home at the summit. They felt they were better treated, and you can actually see that reflected in some of the stories aired by the Russian journalists” Ryhor Nizhnikau told News Now Finland in August.
“The Finns are confirmed to be valuable partners in Moscow and in this regart at least they won a few extra points to their credibility” during the Helsinki summit, Nizhnikau added.
But even before the Helsinki Summit, there was already an established pattern of regular contacts, including face-to-face meetings and phone calls, going back several years.
In July 2017, President Putin paid a one day visit to Finland, when he met Niinistö for ‘steamboat diplomacy’ in Savonlinna as part of the Suomi 100 independence celebrations.
Previously the pair have met in Finland or Russia, and enjoyed playing ice hockey together.
In fact, a recent tell-all book about Sauli Niinistö claimed that he evaluated Putin based on the way he plays ice hockey. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Niinistö has apparently concluded that Putin likes to win at any cost.
All of this shores up President Niinistö’s stated strategy of keeping all lines of communication open between Helsinki and Moscow.