Finland's Glorious Strawberry Season Brings Together World Leaders Yet Again

Julia Kivelä

The show is over. Presidents Trump and Putin have left Helsinki after a colourful summit in the Finnish capital. I – as almost everyone around the globe – wish that the summit strengthens peaceful collaboration.

Why Helsinki was selected as the location for the summit? There have been some 1970s remains in the international media referring to Finland as “neutral country” between East and West. I think our President, Sauli Niinistö, refuted this profoundly well in his press conference. Finland has been, is, and remains part of the West. We are modern, advanced democracy, independent for 101 years. We are the only country Stalin tried to conquer but failed. We are a member of the European Union.

Nevertheless, Finland is also pragmatic. We are one of the Eastern borders of the EU with some 1340 kilometres of borderline with Russia. We need to talk with the Russian leadership. We need to find pragmatic solutions to challenges posed by our geographical location. Therefore, Finland – like Australia – is NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partner, but not a full member of the NATO.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, we Finns were proudly calling ourselves neutral, although at the same time we happily in the 1980s referred ourselves as the most Americanized country outside the U.S. In reality, Finland has ever been neutral only in the sense of military alignment. In our minds, we have always been part of the liberal democratic West. Just back in the days, you would not make too much noise about it. That’s just pragmatism.

Helsinki received lots of praise for the efficient organization of the Trump–Putin Summit. Like always, people in Helsinki got things done without extra hassle. That’s something very Finnish: we don’t try to walk the talk; we walk the silence. That’s Finnish pragmatism.

At the same time, the main newspaper in Finland reminded everyone where our strength lies in welcoming Trump and Putin with billboards saying: “Mr President, welcome to the land of free press.”

PS. Strawberry season in Finland is short. So once you get world leaders to Finland during strawberry season, obviously you make everyone eat strawberries. That’s also Finnish pragmatism.

Author Information: Antti Niemelä is the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Finland to Australia


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