Finnish president encourages Trump to keep democracy ‘going on’

President Donald Trump spent most of a joint White House news conference with the president of Finland on Wednesday railing against Democrats and the media over the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry. But at the podium, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, maintained a consistent message, subtly countering Trump on the climate crisis, European cooperation and arms control.

Niinistö opened remarks by saying he spent some free time in Washington at the American History Museum, the African American History Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian, adding that he admires the democracy the US has built.

“Mr. President, you have here a great democracy. Keep it going on,” he said, as Democrats move ahead with their impeachment inquiry.

And while the US has threatened tariffs on the European Union and criticized key European allies on defense spending, Niinistö said he took up “the importance of trans-Atlantic cooperation” with Trump. “We all know Europe needs USA. But I say, USA needs also Europe,” he added.

“We know the price of everything. We should recognize … the value of everything. We share the same values — democracy, human rights, rule-based order, and in that, we are very similar. Europe has in a way awakened during the couple last year to understand more about (the) security point of view and I just want to tell you that in my opinion the stronger Europe we have, the stronger partner you have,” Niinistö added.

Niinistö also said environmental issues pose a great challenge to Finland and other Arctic nations, telling reporters in the room that “if we lose the Arctic, we lose the globe.”

“I’m very glad that we started to talk two years ago in this house about black coal. It is not maybe the worst which causes climate problems but it is everybody can understand that if black comes down to ice and snow, when the sun meets it, it melts down. And melting of sea ice in Arctic is very crucial,” he said.

The Trump administration has come under scrutiny for its lack of efforts to address the climate crisis. The administration has been criticized over Trump’s absence at key global meetings on the issue, the administration’s deregulation in environmental space, and the US’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords.

And while Trump has repeatedly praised the strength of the coal industry and touted the use of what he calls “clean coal,” Niinistö oversaw the country’s initiative to phase out coal entirely by 2029 and “stopping fossil oil in heating” by 2030.

And while reports have suggested that the Trump administration is considering letting the new START Treaty lapse, Niinistö insisted that it needed to be renegotiated or renewed.

The treaty, an arms control agreement between the US and Russia, was signed in 2010. Trump has called the agreement “a one-sided deal” and a “bad deal.”

But Niinistö invoked the fears of Cold War era hostility, saying, “We can’t let the situation return.”