Finland offers to host the upcoming summit between US Presidents Joe Biden and Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin, the presidency announced in Helsinki on Friday, while Austria has also declared itself available.
The Nordic country, which had already hosted a summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in July 2018, “has informed both Washington and Moscow” of “its availability to organize” the meeting, which would be the first between the two. men, said the cabinet of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.
Towards a “de-escalation” of tensions?
Tuesday, during a phone call with Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden had formulated the offer of a summit “in a third country” and “in the coming months”, a proposal confirmed but not yet accepted by the Kremlin, on background of tensions around Ukraine. Austria also said it was ready on Friday to host the meeting if Washington and Moscow so wished. The country “will naturally always be available to host high-level talks of all kinds. Both sides know we are ready, ”said the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
Mixing the counterattack and the outstretched hand, Joe Biden announced Thursday a series of severe financial sanctions against Russia and the expulsion of ten Russian diplomats, arousing the ire of Moscow, but also renewed his summit proposal with Vladimir Putin to initiate the “de-escalation” of tensions. The American wish is that the meeting take place in Europe “this summer”.
A diplomatic bridge
Despite a painful past, Finland – which is not a member of NATO – maintains close diplomatic relations with Russia, making the Nordic country a diplomatic bridge with Moscow. Finnish President Niinistö, a supporter of maintaining dialogue with Russia, had a “long” interview with Vladimir Putin on Tuesday evening, during which the possible meeting with Joe Biden had been mentioned, according to Helsinki.
While his executive powers are limited, the president’s mandate in Finland includes diplomacy, excluding relations with the European Union. These summit talks come as Ukraine claims to be under threat of armed action from Moscow and is clamoring to be able to join the Atlantic Alliance and the EU. Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to the border with Ukraine and Crimea in recent weeks, a peninsula it annexed in 2014.