Monday 16th July, 2018, marked a change to the usually calm and subdued Finnish summer. A period usually filled with locals lounging in city parks and bar terraces, profiting from the rare warmth of the long hours of sunlight, was disrupted by the two most well known political leaders of modern times.
Trump and Putin, meet Finland
U.S President Donald Trump rolled by in an imposing motorcade past the rather subdued spectators lining the streets of Finland's capital, Helsinki. Trump had already been in Finland for a night, touching down in Air Force One the previous evening. Vladimir Putin had been labeled to arrive on the Monday itself, having been occupied with watching France defeat Croatia in the World Cup finals the day before.
Putin however arrived late at Helsinki airport, leading many to believe that he would be the second to be chauffeured to the Helsinki presidential palace (the chosen location of the controversial meeting). He was not however, as Trump decided to delay his passage until after his Russian counterpart had finally arrived in a likely, not entirely unexpected, power play move.
In stark contrast to the SUV laden convoys of the political 'big boys' was the arrival of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. In a simple two car setup, proceeded by a single local police motorcycle, the popular leader rode in a much more casual affair. Far ahead time-wise and candidly waving at the Finns lining the street, this calm entrance embodies the open and human side of Finnish politics.
Famous for casually strolling around Helsinki to take his dog Lennu out for a walk, posing with reporters for selfies and even once ringing a local radio station to ask important gardening related questions, Sauli's demeanour is a world apart from that of Trump and Putin.
Of course, there are safety requirements around the infamous political cavalcades and extensive entourages of other world leaders. The threat level surrounding a Finnish president clearly would not even make a dent in the unnerving amount of groups baying for violent actions against Trump or Putin.
Still, as the fallout continues in the media around the carefully calculated, and perhaps not so carefully calculated, remarks made in the press conference by the troublesome two, one can't help but wonder if a better result could be achieved if they were a little more 'down to earth'.
Finland, as it happens, has a history of ensuring successful political meetings through calm and relaxed negotiations. The Finnish parliament building, located along the route which the motorcades took, naturally has its own sauna. Former president Urho Kekkonen was well known for his liking of sauna based discussions with both domestic and international politicians.
Kari Puuminen of the Bank of Finland once described how saunas were integral to discussions made to save Finland from economic turmoil in the '70s.
"When the talks became bogged down, they moved to the sauna. In the sauna, they relaxed. New ideas emerged. By the end of the weekend, they had agreed on an accord to hold down wages which helped give us our last decade of economic success."
Saunas are not the perfect solution for modern day messy politics however. As much as we would all like to see politicians cut the rhetoric and make world bettering decisions and agreements for once, saunas may not be the way to go.
As the representation of women in politics slowly creeps closer to equilibrium, the concept of inter-sex sauna sessions is not too crazy to consider (bare in mind that the current leader of the free world starred on 'The Apprentice' reality TV show). However, I personally couldn't see Theresa May sharing a steamy sauna with Emmanuel Macron. The idea of Trump and Putin nude in a sauna together is also not something that one would particularly like to envision.
The question then thrown up is what can be done to encourage more fruitful discussions in political meetings, and in simple business meetings for that matter? How can we recreate the relaxing setting of a wood fired sauna without insisting that politicians or business leaders shed their clothes and whip each other with birch branches?
A driving factor behind the creation of Slepps indoor footwear, was to create indulgently luxurious slippers, which could still be worn in a professional setting. Slippers are an undeniable way of informing the brain that you are in a comfortable, relaxed situation and we would argue that better results can be delivered with this kind of mindset. Politicians should take a page out of Sauli Niinistö's book and take a footwear based 'chill pill'.
An Open Offer
Should Finland be chosen again for a rekindling of Russian - American relations, we hereby leave an open offer to either leader to pick up a pair of Slepps, free of charge. We will happily pass them through the gap of a heavily tinted limousine window if there is a chance that actual advances in nuclear proliferation or human rights issues can be advanced. Also, if the feet match the hands, we're happy to reassure Mr. Trump that Slepps come in sizes as low as European size 35.
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