Staunton, June 11 – Sergey Markov, co-chair of Russia’s National Strategy Council and President Vladimir Putin’s personal representative, has told a Helsinki newspaper that “anti-Semitism started World War II [and] Russophobia could start the third,” noting that Finland is “one of the most Russophobic countries in Europe.”
Speaking to “Hufudstaddsbladet” over the weekend, Markov said that Russia is against Finland’s becoming a member of NATO, a step that he said “would weaken not strengthen security in Europe.” He asked rhetorically, “Does Finland want to start World War III?” (hbl.fi/nyheter/2014-06-08/616261/vill-ni-vara-med-och-starta-ett-tredje-varldskrig a discussed in barentsobserver.com/en/security/2014/06/putin-envoy-warns-finland-against-joining-nato-09-06).
Markov’s comments came in advance of a visit to the Finnish capital on Monday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and at a time when some in Moscow are pushing for the “Finlandization” of Ukraine, that is, as a country that is not a member either of Western institutions or of Moscow-led ones (svpressa.ru/politic/article/89661/).
Spokesmen for Lavrov in the past have suggested that Russian-Finnish relations are “an example of good neighborliness,” but more recently, they suggest that Helsinki’s stand on Ukraine has contributed to “a decline in the intensiveness” of bilateral relations (voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_06_09/Lavrov-to-travel-to-Finland-to-boost-Russian-Finnish-cooperation-in-politics-and-economy-6345/).
Lavrov’s equation of the role of anti-Semitism and Russophobia is typical of much of the overheated and hyperbolic rhetoric coming out of Moscow, but it is important to note both because it is coming from a “personal representative” of Putin and because it shows that the Kremlin’s pretensions for dominance extend well beyond the borders of the former Soviet space.
Moreover, his remarks highlight the way Moscow still understands Finlandization: A neighboring country should not be a member of any Western defense alliance, but Moscow should retain the right to dictate the policies of that country on any issue of concern to the Russian Federation.
Such demands, of course, do more than almost anything else to push neighboring countries into the arms of Western alliances like the European Union and NATO, and thus they are self-defeating however much sympathetic attention they attract from those who believe that Russia’s problems with these countries are their fault rather than Moscow’s.
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