Editorial by Janne Strang for News Now Finland
President Sauli Niinistö’s eagerly awaited meeting with US President Donald Trump was moved forward from Tuesday to Monday, due to Hurricane Harvey. But it is still unclear what the substance of the discussions is going to be, and why Mr Niinistö had received an invitation to the White House already within the first year of Trump’s administration.
Speculation has lingered around such topics as Finland’s centennial independence jubilee, our current chair at the Arctic Council, the military build-up around the Baltic Sea and, of course, Finland’s unique diplomatic relationship with Russia – as well as Mr Niinistö’s personal insights and relationship with President Vladimir Putin.
It is also expected Mr Trump will ask Finland to support his recent policy U-turn regarding Afghanistan.
Within a timespan of only a few months mr Niinistö has now had the opportunity to talk directly and privately with not only Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel, but also president Xi Jinping of China, a stright flush of top dog world leaders which unexpectedly has put Mr Niinistö right in the centre of the perfect storm that is international diplomacy in 2017.
Perhaps then there is some truth to the statement of Niinistös former party comrade, Minister of Finance Petteri Orpo (NCP), that the president at this time “is very well respected” among political leaders of the world. The question is, how to best put this assumed gravitas to good use in the first Finnish Oval Office meeting in 12 years.
The voice of a six million strong nation from Ultima Thule is hardly going to sway Mr Trump on opinions or policies, but it is however crucial that Mr Niinistö not regard the summit as a mere meet-and-greet with the primus inter pares of world leaders.
We expect Niinistö to underline the world’s concerns for the escalation of rhetoric between the US and North Korea; the importance of free trade and the sanctity of human rights; as well as remind Trump that his country, too, is part of our shared planet, and both agent and victim of global climate change. Perhaps will the proverbial shoe will drop on this issue when Mr Trump will witness first hand the hurricane damage in Texas?
As a member of the European Union, there is very little for Finland to gain in trying to pursue any specific bilateral issues with the US. Rather, acting as a rigid part of a joint European front opposing Mr Trump’s often reckless and ever-shifting policies and utterances, President Niinistö with all his personal assets, perhaps can help to make it clear for President Trump that American antics are being carefully monitored by a league of concerned adults across the Atlantic.