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Cablegate: Ambassador's Conversation with President Halonen

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

Farewell Call on President Halonen...

1. (C) The Ambassador on Oct. 7 paid a farewell call on
President Halonen. Halonen began her remarks by pointedly
telling the Ambassador "I am a friend of America." She said
that Finnish-American relations were strong, and that she
looked forward to working together with the U.S. in the
future on a broad range of shared goals. The Ambassador said
that he was pleased Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister
Tuomioja would meet in early November. Halonen agreed and
expressed hope for a successful meeting. Turning to
hurricane Katrina, the Ambassador reiterated our appreciation
for Finland's assistance. Halonen said that she empathized
with President Bush and the problems he faced with the relief
effort; she understood that most of the problems originated
at the local level and likened it to problems with civil
crisis management in the Nordic-Baltic region where local
capabilities were still inadequate.

2. (C) Halonen then addressed Finnish press coverage of her
conversation with President Bush on the margins of the NATO
Istanbul Summit in 2004. (Note: Halonen straightened the
President's tie during a group photo op, and a few Finnish
journalists interpreted this as a sign of Halonen's
'desperation' for interaction with the President). Halonen
said that the President had actually asked her to fix his
tie, and that she had jokingly remarked that if she did so,
it would spark a media row in Finland. As it turned out, the
media here did indeed highlight this interaction. The
Ambassador said that he was pleased also that Halonen met the
President at the UNGA (and subsequently reiterated this
during a television interview on Finland's major news
network). Finland is an important country for the U.S.--
small in size, but big in influence, and he was glad that
relations were strong as he departed. Finally, the
Ambassador expressed disappointment that former Finnish
President Ahtisaari had not won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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...and on her Advisors

3. (C) Ambassador Mack subsequently met with Halonen's
Chief of Staff, Jarmo Viinanen, and foreign policy advisor
Paivi Kairomo-Hella. The Ambassador raised the topic of
Russia, saying that President Halonen had described Putin as
someone Finland knew and could deal with since he had a
"northern mentality." The Ambassador characterized this
description as "the devil you know," and Halonen agreed.
Viinanen responded that given Russia's importance to Finland,
the GoF will have close relations with whomever is in power
in Moscow. He said that during recent meetings between Putin
and Halonen, the Russians raised concerns about their border
with China, prompting Halonen to reply wryly that Finland
understood how problematic long borders with big communist
powers could be.

4. (C) Viinanen opined that Finland was, ironically, in
better shape now regarding its border policy with Russia
because of the postwar settlement after World War II. The
treaty of mutual understanding with the Soviet Union had
resolved outstanding border issues, albeit at great cost. On
the other hand, the Baltic countries faced continued
difficulties with Russia over unresolved border issues. On
the China Arms Embargo, the Ambassador expressed U.S. concern
that the issue might arise during Finland's 2006 EU
Presidency. Viinanen replied that the embargo was a "badly
written agreement" after Tienamen, and was "causing problems"
for the EU now.


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