Helsinki, July 16: Thousands of Finnish nationals came out on the streets of Helsinki on Sunday, July 15, on the eve of the first summit between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. They strongly condemned both leaders and many among them even objected to the idea of calling Finland a "neutral ground" although it has played hosts to some of the biggest summits during the Cold War, reports said.
The Finnish media too chipped in with the country's largest newspaper putting up advertisements on streets saying: "Mr President, welcome to the land of free press" in both English and Russian, the Guardian reported.
This is quite unusual for a country which has seen historic bridge-building summits between the US and former Soviet Union in the 1970s and early 1990s besides one between former US president Bill Clinton and his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin in 1997.
The protest has mainly two aspects. First, this summit is seen more as one between two unpopular individuals - ones who are accused of denouncing democracy, human rights and international commitments.
A summit between two unpopular individuals
Unlike in the past when US-Soviet Union/Russia summits were viewed as a meeting point of two opposing forces, the Trump-Putin summit is being perceived more as one between two like-minded individuals.
Finland no more a 'Finlandised' state
Secondly, Finland has come a long way since the days of Finlandisation - which showed the Nordic country in a light of weakness against a massive neighbour which saw a neutrality being forced on it.
Finland doesn't like to be seen as a neutral ground between the East and West now, especially after having built its own western credentials since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Finland is a member of the European Union and also considers joining the Nato, which clearly makes its position as a more pro-west nation. Finland has a strong relationship with Russia today as well but the Finnish do not want to be tagged with a label that makes its own identity look lesser and more dominated by big power politics.
Trump arrived in Helsinki from a private trip to Scotland on Sunday while Putin was set to reach the Finnish capital on Monday, just ahead of the summit.