New book: Niinistö ‘coached’ Trump over breakfast on how to handle Putin

John Bolton's new book - officially published on Tuesday - contains lots of insider details including about Donald Trump, Sauli Niinistö and the July 2018 Helsinki Summit.

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Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (C) meets with US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on Monday 16th July 2018 / Credit: TP Kanslia

A leaked copy of a book about US President Donald Trump, written by one of his former closest advisors ex-National Security Advisor John Bolton, is revealing more details about the relationship between America and Finland, and the July 2018 Helsinki Summit.

Although ‘The Room Where it Happened’ won’t be officially published until Tuesday, an online copy seen by News Now Finland says that President Sauli Niinistö ‘coached’ Trump on how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of his July 2018 Helsinki summit meeting.

Bolton writes that over breakfast at the president’s official residence Mantyniemi, Niinistö said Trump must respect Putin, that he was “a fighter” but that Trump must “never provide an opening or give even one inch.”

The new book quotes President Niinistö saying he doesn’t believe Russia will ever return Crimea to Ukraine and cites a Finnish proverb to the US president: “The Cossacks take back everything that’s loose.”

During the July 2018 breakfast meeting between the two leaders, Bolton says that Niinistö told Trump he doesn’t think Russia would invade a NATO country, but when asked directly if he thought Finland would join NATO, “Niinistö gave the complicated Finnish answer, not saying yes or no, but leaving the door open” says Bolton.

US President Donald Trump (L) receives a World Cup soccer ball from Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) at Helsinki Summit on 16th July 2018 / Credit: News Now Finland

Any other mentions of Finland and the Helsinki Summit? 

John Bolton’s new book – which the White House unsuccessfully tried to stop from being published – also describes the tense hours as the huge US delegation in Helsinki waited at the Hilton Kalastajatorppa for Vladimir Putin’s plane to arrive.

The Russian leader has a reputation for keeping people waiting and his arrival in Helsinki in July 2018 was no exception.

Bolton says the wait put the whole summit in jeopardy, but the Americans were not above playing games themselves.

“We did consider canceling the meeting entirely if Putin were late enough, and we decided that in any event, we would make Putin wait for a while in Finland’s presidential palace (where the summit was to be held, as in 1990) once he did arrive.”

There’s also a few details about the two hour one-on-one meeting Trump and Putin had while they were in Helsinki, with the interpreter reporting Putin did 90% of the talking. The two leaders covered Syria, Iran, China, trade, and Russia’s meddling in US elections.

Bolton says he was happy that Trump had not made any agreements or concessions with Putin.

“I was delighted. And relieved. No successes, but that didn’t trouble me at all, since I had long seen this entire summit as one massive exercise in damage control.”

US President Donald Trump speaks at a Helsinki press conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin

Why the summit almost never came to Helsinki 

Former US National Security Adviser John Bolton says in his new book that Helsinki was just one of the cities being actively considered as a venue for the July 2018 summit – the other, which was known publicly at the time as well, was Vienna.

Bolton says the Russians pushed for the Austrian capital as the venue, with American officials favouring Helsinki – although Donald Trump seemed less sure.

“Isn’t Finland kind of a satellite of Russia?” Bolton quotes Trump as saying, and notes that later the same evening Trump asked his Chief of Staff John Kelly if Finland was part of Russia.

“I tried to explain the history but didn’t get very far before Trump said he too wanted Vienna. ‘Whatever they [the Russians] want. Tell them we’ll do whatever they want.’ After considerable further jockeying, however, we agreed on Helsinki.” writes Bolton.