Trump & Niinistö’s Last Minute Meeting Change

Finnish President's discussions with Donald Trump brought forward by a day as Trump prepares to visit Hurricane Harvey disaster zone.

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File Picture: Official Visit to the United States on 12-15 May 2016 / Credit: Lehtikuva / Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

A meeting in Washington DC between US President Donald Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has been moved forward by a day.

The pair had been scheduled to meet at the White House on Tuesday, but Trump has now said he will visit Texas to assess damage, and rescue efforts, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Finnish media reported last week that Niinistö plans to talk with Trump about the situation in the Baltic Sea and Arctic regions.

For the Baltic Sea, President Niinistö has refered to Russia’s upcoming Zapad military exercise; and another military exercise along the Swedish coast involving Finnish and US forces. Niinistö is reported as saying “this tells us that some tensions have increased”

Former Finnish Ambassador to the US Jaakko Iloniemi told STT Finnish News Agency that preparing for a meeting between the two presidents required a large number of officials to focus on the situation in Finland.

Mark Katz, a visiting senior fellow at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs says that thanks to the meetting, Finland has a raised profile in Washington.

“It’s a great opportunity” says Katz, who says he presumes Trump’s assistants are familiarizing the President with the situation in Finland. However, Katz says the difference between the current US President and previous Presidents is significant, in the way they prepare for their meetings.

“If he (Trump) does not know the details of US relations with Russia, he does not really know the details of the US relationship with Finland” Katz says.

It’s not clear why President Trump wants to meet President Niinistö one-on-one. In May 2016, Niinistö was part of a delegation of Nordic leaders who met Barack Obama as part of a group visit.

However, it is possible that the US administration, which has ongoing issues with Russia, might want to hear from Finland on how the Nordic nation manages its own relationship with their Russian neighbours, and Vladimir Putin in particular.