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Exclusive: Finland President on Helsinki Summit

Reacting to the Russia-U.S. summit in Helsinki, Finland's President Sauli Niinistö says dialogue isn't important if it doesn't progress in a constructive way.

Posted: Jul 17, 2018 3:02 PM
Updated: Jul 17, 2018 3:37 PM

While this summit in Helsinki, Finland, may not go down in history alongside the moment Franklin D. Roosevelt gave away Eastern Europe to Joseph Stalin at Yalta, it has to rank as the lowest ever in modern times. It's the worst for all sorts of reasons: zero preparation, zero deliverables, zero understanding of the stakes and the horror it's wreaked on the entire Western alliance, not to mention America's intelligence community, who Donald Trump has now thrown definitively under the bus.

My first East-West summit was in Vienna, Austria, in June 1979 when I watched as Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT II (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) agreement -- the second major strategic arms limitation pact between the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union. Their appearance together was very much a carefully choreographed summit of equals. The summit's deliverable was quite clear: an agreement to stabilize the number of nuclear weapons in each nation's ballooning arsenal.

That SALT II never formally went into effect was more a byproduct of the Soviet Union's sudden and ill-advised invasion of Afghanistan later that same year than any real flaw in the complex negotiations that preceded the summit itself. Yet because of the deep understanding of the stakes by both sides, both countries still respected the treaty until a new agreement could come along to replace it.

The Vienna summit bore few other resemblances to Monday's in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin except for the obvious fact that the two leaders of the American and Russian people again sat across the table from each other.

Indeed, there were so many dissonant notes in Monday's impromptu, ill-prepared and clearly quite ill-advised summit. Virtually every other summit between leaders of the United States and Russia or the Soviet Union has been the culmination of long and detailed negotiations. And the outcomes were invariably a treaty, a lengthy set of understandings or a detailed path forward to clear and important conclusions.

Here there was none of that. In short, this might best be described as a summit of lost opportunities.

Of course, we may never really know exactly what Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin cooked up between them in the two hours they spent closeted alone with only interpreters. Ironically, it happens that Carter and Brezhnev spent 90 minutes alone, only with interpreters, at the United States Embassy in Vienna in 1979. But by then, both sides had agreed to the signing of a treaty that took place that same day and that had been preceded by six years of negotiations.

What the Helsinki summit has succeeded in accomplishing, largely, is erasing the entire post-Crimea efforts of the West to isolate Russia and treat it as the pariah nation it clearly proved itself to be by seizing at gunpoint the territory of another country. That effort was clearly collapsing, of course, even before both leaders ever arrived in Helsinki.

Donald Trump has spent recent months doing his level best to welcome Putin's Russia back into the fraternity of civilized nations and at the same time drive the hitherto united members of NATO far away from the United States. These countries, previously US allies, are the ones who had expelled Putin from their midst within days of his seizure of the Crimea and incursions into eastern Ukraine.

But what else might Trump have given up in his one-on-one with Putin? Might he, for instance, have agreed to ease back on joint military exercises that give the three NATO nations bordering on Russia in the Baltics some assurance that their own independence won't be tested as Ukraine's still is on a regular basis?

For that matter, what was really accomplished in discussions of Syria? Will Russia pull back its forces, the primary bulwark propping up Putin's favorite Middle East dictator, Bashar al-Assad? Hardly likely. Yet both leaders seemed to come down on the side of helping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secure his country's security on the Golan Heights --hardly a major strategic priority for Assad and a point easily conceded.

"We both spoke with Bibi and they would like to do certain things with Syria having to do with the safety of Israel," Trump told the news conference. "Russia and the United States will work jointly (in this regard)." As the Israeli daily Ha'aretz put it, apparently with some pleasure, "the US President paid particular attention to Israel during their summit."

But perhaps even more important than Trump and Putin's bizarre press conference was what they did not say. Trump utterly failed to hold Putin fully, or even remotely, accountable for the election interference that the US intelligence and law enforcement communities have all but confirmed down to the last keystroke.

Instead, Trump stood mutely as Putin challenged Robert Mueller's lawyers to come to Russia and lay out their case. Trump went one giant step further -- refusing, with Putin looking on mutely -- even to endorse his own intelligence community's detailed finding of deep Russian involvement in meddling with America's election processes.

So what's left now that both leaders are headed back to their own countries? Damage control, certainly, for the leaders of other NATO nations who must now examine ruefully the splintered remains of the carefully constructed doghouse where they'd managed to enshrine Putin since his Crimean adventure. Congressional Republicans must now calculate just how deeply their fragile hold on power is imperiled when voters go to the polls to evaluate their party and its leader in November. And for Trump and Putin, no doubt, victory laps with their own bases cheering them on.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
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Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
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Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
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Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
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George129525
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Hancock127641
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Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
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Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
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Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
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