In the first meeting of what is going to be a very busy day, President Donald Trump met with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at his Mäntyniemi Residence shortly before 10 a.m. (local time). The two presidents, accompanied by their wives, First Lady Melania Trump and the First Lady of Finland Jenni Haukio, greeted each other on the steps of the building, where Mrs. Trump was presented with a bouquet of flowers.
They then took a short walk around the grounds, chatting to their hosts, before entering the building. The two presidents then settled in for a meeting over breakfast, accompanied by their teams, while the two first ladies had their breakfast together elsewhere.
The American team included: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; U.S. ambassador to Finland Robert Pence; National Security Adviser John Bolton and Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia Fiona Hill. On the Finnish side, as well as the president and the U.S. Ambassador Ms. Kirsti Kauppi, participants included Mr. Jukka Siukosaari, chief of Cabinet and Mr. Petri Hakkarainen, Foreign Policy Advisor.
President Trump spoke briefly to the press before the meeting. He expressed his gratitude to his Finnish hosts, saying, “We really appreciate Finland, very highly respect your country. I enjoyed being with a couple of days ago [in Brussels at the NATO summit].”
Speaking about the NATO summit, Mr. Trump said, “NATO has, I think, never been stronger. It was a little bit tough at the beginning but it turned out to be love. I appreciated your support.” He added, “ People are now agreeing to pay. We were having a lot of problems with a lot of people not paying, as the president will tell you. They’re paying more rapidly. And it’s probably never been stronger than it is today. We had a fantastic meeting and now we’re capping it with being in Finland.”
Mr. Trump was cagey on the subject of his meeting later in the day with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In answer to questions from the press, he would not be drawn on the issue of Russian meddling in U.S. elections and said only, “We’ll see him in a little while …We’ll do just fine.”
Helsinki is basking in glorious sunshine again today. The mood on the street seemed to be cautiously optimistic as people traveled to work on Monday morning. A young city worker, sweeping Helsinki’s historic Esplanade before the arrival of the expected crowds said that she was “hopeful” about today’s meeting and thinks it’s “a good thing.”
Tuukka Jarvinen, who was manning a fruit stall in the center of town, was expecting a good day on Monday. He said that the Market Square was shut due to the summit and there would only be his stall and another round the corner to feed all the visitors. Guidance for journalists pointed out that the market would be shut and recommended that they either take snacks and drinks with them, or eat at the media center.
Jarvinen said that he was not worried about Russia. He felt that the media exaggerate the threat in order to worry people, but described Mr. Putin as “over confident.” He expressed the same opinion about Mr. Trump, but added that as he was a businessman he might be able to get things done. He was hopeful that the summit would be productive.