In recent years, contacts are the same as in the days of the late Yeltsin.
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will meet in Helsinki today. This is their third personal contact. In total, the presidents of Russia and the United States met 86 times in the past 23 years. Usually this took place within the framework of multilateral summits.
The capital of Finland is not the first to receive the presidents of Russia and the United States. In March 1997, Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton met here. Finland was preferable to its proximity to Moscow. The Russian leader in the beginning of that year several times got to the hospital and could hardly endure long flights. But in the end Yeltsin looked healthier at the events, because Clinton before the trip had surgery on his knee and moved in a wheelchair. The meeting discussed the expansion of NATO and the adoption of Russia in the G-7, and two months later the states signed the Russia-NATO treaty: it confirmed the fact of cooperation, and not the confrontation between the parties. In 1998, Russia joined the G-7, turning it into a G-8.
In 2018 the NATO issue was also discussed before the talks . Finland in the military alliance is not included, which is convenient for discussion. Membership of Russia in the G-8 suspended (now it’s G-7) after joining the Crimea – this topic is likely to be raised too. Putin is far away to fly to Helsinki from Moscow, where he attended the World Cup finals. Trump will complete his European tour there. In 1997, the talks were called the end of the period when Russia could restrain NATO expansion. If the negotiations in 1997 were called the end of the period when Russia was holding back NATO expansion, but now the American side expects better relations with the United States.
The most important summit in Helsinki from the historical point of view is still the “Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe” in 1975. Then 35 countries signed an agreement on global security and human rights, which marked the consolidation of “detente” in relations between the two superpowers. In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev and George HW Bush met in the capital of Finland to discuss the Iraq-Kuwait conflict .
The first meeting between the presidents of Russia and the United States in history took place in 1991, when Russia was still part of the USSR. Yeltsin flew overseas a week after winning the election (at that time he was the elected president, but formally remained chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR). Bush Sr. then expressed concern that economic reforms in the Soviet Union are slow, and Yeltsin assured that democracy will develop, and supported the decision of the Baltic states to withdraw from the Union.
Yeltsin paid the next visit to the United States in February 1992: the Presidents signed the Camp David Declaration on the end of the Cold War. In June of the same year, the Russian president returned to the United States. This trip is now often recalled because of Yeltsin’s phrase in the Congress “Lord, bless America”, omitting its continuation “and from myself I will add – and Russia.”
The first visit of the American president to Russia, and not to Soviet Moscow, took place in January 1993. Bush Sr. was already preparing to resign and transfer power to Clinton. But the reason for the meeting was weighty – the signing of the treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive weapons.
In the future, the presidents of the two countries collided on all continents, except Africa and Antarctica. Most often this happened in Moscow (10 times), in Washington (7), Russian St. Petersburg and New York (5 each).
If you look at the number of meetings (including meetings at international summits) over the years, it is clear that there were more of them at the beginning of the powers of the presidents. So it was until 2012, when Putin returned to the Kremlin, and the presidents of the two countries stopped changing one after another in a short space. At the beginning of their first terms, Putin and George W. Bush met more often than at the end. The same thing happened with Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama.
At the third term of Putin’s meetings on average for the year was the same as for the second term of Yeltsin. Both periods are characterized by cooling in relations between countries.
Negotiations in Helsinki – this is the first since 2010 bilateral summit of the presidents of Russia and the United States. The previous one was held in Washington. That trip to Medvedev in the US was remembered not only statements about the “reset” and the strengthening of cooperation, but also the fact that the Russian head of state visited the offices of Apple and Twitter.
Since then, the occasions for meetings have been international, rather than separate bilateral summits. In 2013, Obama was supposed to fly to Moscow, but he canceled the visit because of the unfriendly steps of both countries (the Magnitsky law – Dima Yakovlev’s law, Snowden’s asylum).
Suspension of Russia’s membership in the G-7 (G-8) after the accession of the Crimea negatively affected the number of contacts at the highest level. Almost always in the G8 summits, presidents took part, and this meant their annual communication. Now only summits of APEC and G-20 remain from the annual ones, but they have more participants, and there is less time for personal communication.
With the beginning of Trump’s presidency, the number of meetings with mutual trips of heads of state could increase. So it was with the early Putin and Bush Junior: the Russian president was visiting a ranch of a colleague, and the latter came to Moscow and St. Petersburg in response.
Trump in the first year of the presidency visited more countries than Bush Jr. and, for example, Clinton. Putin on the third term visited almost the same number of countries (21.2 visits on average for the year), as in the first and second (23.5). Trump after the election of the Russian president invited Putin to Washington, which for many was a surprise. But in the end the parties chose a more convenient and neutral place – Finland. It is not known how the meeting with Helsinki will take place, but next time both presidents should meet in November, during the summits G-20 and APEC.