Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are heading to Helsinki.
It’s the first summit between the current leaders of Russia and the USA, although the two men have meet twice before.
So what do you need to know about the event? Our essential guide to the Helsinki Summit covers everything from security to souvenirs.
The summit brings together arguably the two most powerful men on the planet, at a time of geopolitical uncertainty: Russia has become increasingly isolated in recent years after invading Ukraine; interfering in US elections; trying to cover up its involvement in the deadly attack on a Malaysian Airlines plane; getting kicked out the Olympics for widespread doping violations and being accused of committing a chemical weapons attack in Britain.
America too is going through a period of upheaval, with Donald Trump’s first term administration wracked with resignations; an ongoing legal investigation into his campaign’s possible links with Russia; and national controversies over immigration, human rights, and gun control; as well as foreign policy snafus from Canada and Germany to London and North Korea.
What’s On The Agenda For Helsinki Talks?
The trip begins when the US President lands in Helsinki on Sunday evening. By Monday morning the American first couple Donald and Melania are having breakfast with the Finnish first couple Sauli and Jenni at their official residence Mäntyniemi.
Around 13:00, Sauli Niinistö greets first Vladimir Putin, then Donald Trump at the Presidential Palace, where talks between the two leaders takes place in the Palace’s Gothic Hall. After the talks, there’s lunch in the Hall of Mirrors.
The official agenda for the talks has been a closely held secret. Although at one point it was rumoured all discussions about the invasion of Ukraine, and annexation of Crimea by Russian forces, was off the table.
The White House say that a range of national security issues will be discussed; while President Niinistö says he wants to talk about Baltic Sea security, black carbon emissions and Finland’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
Later in the afternoon there will be a press conference with Putin and Trump in the Hall of State; and America’s Fox News Channel has already announced they’ve landed an exclusive interview with Putin while he’s in Helsinki.
Having two VIPs like Putin and Trump in Helsinki at the same time presents a security nightmare for Finnish authorities, who have to juggle the needs of Secret Service and Kremlin agents, while also not causing too much disruption for local residents.
Extra police are being drafted to the capital to help out with security.
“There are between one thousand and two thousand policemen working in Helsinki [during the summit] and a big amount of them are coming from other police departments” says Jukka Mattilainen, Helsinki Police spokesman.
Many roads in the city centre are expected to be closed on Monday as travel routes are secured, and HSL is warning of “major disruptions to public transport” in Helsinki on Sunday and Monday. It’s thought the Suomenlinna ferry service will be suspended for several hours on Monday at least.
Helsinki Police simply advise people not to commute by car on Monday at all.
Other security precautions include a no-fly zone over the capital, and border controls imposed from Friday 13th July until Tuesday 17th July.
Global Media Coverage
According to the Finnish Foreign Ministry more than 1400 journalists from 61 countries are accredited for the summit.
Some will work at the official press centre at Finlandia Hall, but several of the biggest US and UK broadcasters have custom-built studios at Allas Sea Pools opposite the Presidential Palace. News Now Finland has been closely involved with this project.
Protesters On The Streets
Thousands of protesters will take to the streets of Helsinki on Sunday afternoon.
The ‘Helsinki Calling!‘ rally starts at Kaisanemi Park at 13:00 and continues to Senate Square where there’s a programme of speakers and music from 14:30.
“With international attention focused on Helsinki, we invite people to raise a strong and powerful voice in defense of human rights, democracy, peace and climate action” say organisers.
“Together, let us raise issues that Putin and Trump often seem to undermine through their actions, and about which they seem unwilling to speak”.
The Business Angle
The summit is certainly big business for Helsinki hotels with an influx of potentially several thousand media representatives and US and Russian officials.
There’s also work for smaller companies involved with preparing venues like electricians, security guards, and riggers building media positions.
“In general, in both short and long term, the impact of the summit is definitely positive to the businesses. It boosts especially the tourism sector” says Juho Romakkaniemi, CEO of the Finland Chamber of Commerce.
Other businesses will be negatively impacted by road closures, lack of tourists and strict security measures.
In Kauppatori, Helsinki’s bustling tourist-friendly harbour market place, stall holders have been ordered to shut down completely on Monday during the summit.
The market place attracts thousands of customers each day, and all 150 stalls will remain closed on Monday.
Amanda Reitala, who works at Café Emma in Kauppatori, says she only got to know about the closure of the marketplace on Friday.
Previously the staff had been speculating on the security measures needed.
“We joked that it’s probably best to keep all knives and such hidden on Monday” she says.
Cashing In On Vlad And Donald
Some Finnish entrepreneurs see the summit as a chance to cash in on the historic meeting with souvenir items. And who can blame them!
Helsinki interiors company Feathr designed a special summit wallpaper, which shows scenes of progressive and happy Finnish life a breast feeding working mother, two women kissing, and naked men sitting outside a sauna.
And Kuopio’s Rock Paper Scissors brewery has developed a craft beer called ‘Let’s Settle This Like Adults’.
“Naturally we don’t offer this as a first solution for problem solving” says brewery CEO Samuli Huuhtanen.
“But if there is a danger of a dead end, this is guaranteed way to solve issues”.