Russian adviser to Vladimir Putin, Sergei Markov, made headlines this weekend for pointing the finger at Sweden as one of the most "Russophobic" nations – rivalled only by Finland, Poland, and the Baltic states. On Monday several Swedish politicians dismissed his antics and said Markov doesn't have nearly the political clout he presumes.
"Anti-Semitism started the Second World War, and Russophobia can start a third," Markov told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper this weekend. "Europe today looks upon Russians the same way as Jews were viewed before. Your goal is to destroy Russia. But you will destroy Europe instead."
Markov was represented in the interview as Putin's "personal envoy", a description of which he approved.
"I became his personal representative before the elections in 2012. After the elections he informed me that I had his confidence to continue," Markov said.
However, former Swedish ambassador to Moscow Sven Hirdman said on Monday that Markov was all bark and no bite. For him the message – perceived by some as a threat – was far from new.
"I know him well, he was at my house in Moscow on several occasions. He writes many articles with a similar message," Hirdman remarked. But he scoffed at the idea that Markov was Putin's messenger.
"I wouldn't lend much weight to this. Markov is just one of around 200 trustees in Putin's circles," said Hirdman, who served as ambassador in Moscow from 1994 to 2004.
Torbjörn Björlund, political adviser with Sweden's Left Party (Vänsterpartiet), described the majority of Markov's statements as propaganda, but added that there may be some grounds for the comments on Russophobia.
"In training, we always assume an attack is coming from the east," Björlund told the paper. "It's a leftover from the Cold War, and even further than that historically. There is a deep-rooted fear of Russia."
Markov also claimed in the interview that Russia has the world's best air defence, and that Nato creates conflicts to sustain its redundant existence. Markov, elected to the State Duma lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly in 2007, is also co-Chairman of the National Strategic Council of Russia.