Wednesday 5/12/21
US-RUSSIA

Two countries compete with Finland to host Biden-Putin summit

The Nordic country has in its favor its traditional neutrality, although during the last two decades it has grown closer and closer to NATO and the political voices calling for joining the Alliance have increased.
The presidents of the United States and Russia, Joe Biden (L) and Vladimir Putin. Photos: State Department/Kremlin.
The presidents of the United States and Russia, Joe Biden (L) and Vladimir Putin. Photos: State Department/Kremlin.

At least three European nations, one of them Finland, have offered to host the summit with Vladimir Putin proposed by Joe Biden amid rising tensions between the United States and Russia.

In a telephone call this week, US President Biden had suggested to his Russian counterpart Putin that they meet for a summit in a third country, preferably in Europe during summer.

Finland was the first to volunteer to organize the possible meeting.

The Nordic country has in its favor its traditional neutrality, although during the last two decades it has grown closer and closer to NATO and the political voices calling for joining the Alliance have increased.

Finland also has experience in the organization of this type of event, which dates back to the time of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

More recently, a summit between Putin and former US president Donald Trump already took place in Helsinki in 2018.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also offered his country's support as host for a possible meeting between the countries' leaders in the capital Vienna.

"We are already in contact with the Russian and the US side, if there really should be such a meeting," Kurz said in an interview for the "Morning Briefing" podcast hosted by German journalist Gabor Steingart.

Kurz said his role in a possible meeting should not be overestimated as he is not playing a mediator.

"We have always traditionally had good contact to the East. We are neutral, and thus perhaps also a welcome interlocutor for Russia," Kurz said.

Switzerland joins the race

Switzerland is also vying to host the planned summit, according to at least one report.

The embassies in Washington and Moscow had made corresponding advances, the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported on Saturday, citing diplomatic sources.

The Foreign Ministry in Bern said it will not comment on the matter "for reasons of confidentiality," but said that Switzerland is generally always happy to provide its good services when it is useful.

A legendary meeting took place in Geneva in 1985 between former US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, then newly appointed general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It was considered a turning point in the Cold War.

Whether Putin will accept the invitation remains open. Shortly after it was issued, Washington imposed new sanctions on Russia, and Moscow reacted with a travel ban on high-ranking US government officials.

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