What an exciting venue for a summit, Helsinki!
Okay, I take that back. Lots of summits have happened over time in Helsinki, which does nothing to diminish the glory of one of the most beautiful small cities in that part of the world. I visited there regularly when my wife and children and I lived in Russia, primarily because you have to because in that era, it was where all the stuff was. The good stuff.
I have copies of two pictures painted by Ilsa in 1978 of downtown Helsinki, one showing Stockmann’s Department Store, where I wanted to go when I die, and the other showing the waterside marketplace, where I also wanted to go when I die.
I do recall my oldest son packing away a reindeer steak with mashed potatoes and cloud berries and gravy at the end of a two week disastrous vacation in the Canary Islands, where he drank about a gallon of untreated swimming pool water and came down with an intestinal thing that just would not stop.
Reindeer steak is very red, very delicious and very expensive and I did not deny him one bite of it. It was so good to see him back in the game!
But that’s a digression.
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump undoubtedly have a lot to tell one another, but I suspect mostly it will be the “denial summit” where Putin says, “We didn’t do it,” and Trump tweets every 15 minutes or so, “Putin says they didn’t do it!”
That would be meddling in the election that sent Trump to the White House. But this July summit will also be an example of meddling of a kind in the November midterm elections as Trump tries to defuse a big bomb on the path to glory.
We do have a tiny model for this summit, Trump’s short visit with Mr. Kim a couple of weeks back, the one where everyone got to declare victory and nothing of substance emerged. We can expect that here. Why?
Because what Trump needs is an immense amount of noise in advance of the Russia meddling investigation’s expected late summer or early fall report. We can’t know what it says now because Director Mueller plays his cards very close. Just assume it will be full of bad news that will prompt an endless collection of Trump, “Putin-says-he-didn’t-do-it” tweets. This in the face of a mountain of evidence already in the record indicating the Russians damned well did lots to affect our election.
Just not so you would be able to see it clearly.
The Russian-American relationship has lived in this fog for many, many decades, and this condition is likely to continue. After all, it serves everyone’s purpose.
So it will be fun to watch, but not for the quality of the information that comes out.
Finnish people are wonderfully shy and overwhelmingly kind, I should note. My second son was born in Helsinki on Finnish Independence Day, a spectacular experience that gave us a chance to dive deep into Finnish culture.
On an unrelated note, I once tried to slide down a mountain in northern Finland in my snappy red nylon snow suit. I was alone, which was good. My right buttcheek hit a big rock at about 20 MPH. It hurt so much I just blacked out at the bottom of the ski slope I was surfing on. There was no lasting damage, but my butt was black and blue for months.
Reindeer were looking at me when I woke up!
Or at least that’s how I remember it to this day. But I could have been delirious or something. The thing is, we can’t know because I was there alone. Trump will be in just about the same situation. We won’t be there so we won’t know what happened. We will just have to take his word when he says the reindeer told him the Russians didn’t do it.