“Anti-Semitism started World War II, Russophobia could start the third. Finland is one of the most russiphobian countries in Europe, together with Sweden and the Baltic states,” says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal envoy Sergei Markov, interviewed by Hufudstadsbladet this weekend.
The interview with Markov is made after Finland´s President Sauli Niinistö last week said a referendum would be required to change the country´s constitutionally neutral status before a possible NATO membership could be applied.
Finland is today, together with Sweden, members of NATO’s affiliate program known as the Partnership for Peace.
“Russia recommends Finland not to join NATO. That military alliance has lost its aim and goal and is therefore looking for new tasks. If Finland joins NATO it would weaken the security in Europe, not strengthen it,” says Sergei Markov in the interview.
Markov is closely working with Vladimir Putin on foreign policy affairs issues and serves as co-Chairman of the National Strategic Council of Russia.
His statement that a Finnish NATO membership could start World War III has made headlines across Finnish media this weekend.
Interviewd by YLE, Finland´s President Sauli Niinistö said after a security conference at the presidential summer residence near Turku on Sunday that Finland and Sweden have made a joint proposal on NATO partnership, which the alliance is certainly studying.
“When the NATO partners meet next autumn, the content of how partnership could be extended will probably become clear,” Niinistö said.
On Monday, the Finnish President will receive Russia´s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, at the same summer residence.
Lavrov´s spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich says ahead of the meeting that Russia´s relations with Finland is an example of good neighbourliness, but admit that Finland´s stand on the Ukraine crisis has caused a decline in the intensiveness Russian-Finnish contacts.
“At the same time, in the past three months, a decline in the intensiveness Russian-Finnish contacts has been observed in view of the stand taken by Finland within the framework of the policy being pursued by the European Union with regard to Russia in the context of the events in Ukraine,” Lukashevich said in an interview with Itar-Tass, quoted by Voice of Russia.
Although Ukraine will headline the talks in Turku, Baltic- and Arctic cooperation are two other topics on the agenda when Lavrov meets Erkki Tuomioja later on Monday, reports RIA Novosti. No further details were mentioned.