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Finnish scholars concerned over "neutrality" tag given by media on Trump-Putin meeting

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After Helsinki was announced to be the host of the Trump-Putin meeting, several Finnish scholars and commentators expressed concerns that the media's reference of Finland as a "neutral ground" misread the country's role.

The Kremlin said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump will hold a summit in Finland's capital Helsinki on July 16.

Following the announcement, Finland was described as "neutral ground" by the influential US publication Politico, which broke the news about the meeting. Soon the Politico tag of "neutrality" was widely quoted.

Retired Finnish diplomat Pertti Torstila underlined that Finland has not been neutral since joining the European Union (EU) in the early 1990s.

"Finland is not politically, economically or militarily neutral," said Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a researcher at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs.

He told newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that it should not be unclear to anyone that Finland is an EU country that cooperates closely with NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries.

Teija Tiilikainen, director of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, said that "there has been a lot of talk about the EU being on the sideline."

Mika Makelainen, a senior diplomatic writer of Yle, a national broadcaster, said it seems that a lot remains for Finland to do to inform on its current position.

Both Makelainen and Salonius-Pasternak pointed out the risks which the meeting entails. Makelainen said Trump and Putin "should not be allowed to negotiate about the security of Europe."

According to a White House statement, the two leaders will discuss bilateral relations and a range of national security issues in Helsinki.

Salonius-Pasterrnalk said that a meeting in Finland does not bring to either participant a feeling that it has "given in" on the issue of location.

Noting that the summit is preceded by a NATO meeting in Belgium, Salonius-Pasternak said, "It is not clear in what sort of a mood Trump leaves the NATO meeting."

At a NATO summit last year, Trump scolded EU partners for the cost of the new Brussels headquarters and for not paying enough to support NATO's defense, according to earlier reports.

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