(Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clarified on Wednesday her earlier remarks in which she compared Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade the Ukraine territory of Crimea with Nazi Germany leader Adolf Hitler's reasoning to invade other countries in the 1930s.
"I just want everybody to have a little historic perspective. I'm not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before," Clinton said at the University of California at Los Angeles. She stressed that she was not placing the two men in the same category but highlighted that Putin's reason to enter Ukraine to protect Russian minorities was "reminiscent of claims that were made back in the 1930s when Germany under the Nazis kept talking about how they had to protect German minorities" in Poland and Czechoslovakia, as reported by the LA Times.
Her previous comments were made Tuesday at an event at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach. There, she stated, "Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the 30s. All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous."
Putin's military intervention came after months of protests in Ukraine over President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to reject an accord with the European Union for stronger ties to Russia. The Ukranian parliament voted last month to remove him from office.
Putin has argued that he is defending human rights and citizens in Ukraine loyal to Russia and has promised that military force would only be used as a last resort in the Eastern European country. He rejected criticism by the U.S. government and European Union members that Russia is acting aggressively in Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this week, "Those who attempt to interpret the situation as an act of aggression and threaten us with sanctions and boycotts – these are the very same partners of ours who consistently have encouraged political forces close to them to deliver an ultimatum and refuse dialogue, to ignore the concerns of southern and eastern regions of Ukraine, which has ultimately polarized Ukrainian society."
"As for bringing in forces, for now there is no such need, but such a possibility exists," Putin stated. "What could serve as a reason to use military force? It would naturally be the last resort. Absolutely the last."
Clinton had argued that Putin was acting like Hitler, who in the late 1930s relocated tens of thousands of ethnic Germans living in other countries in Europe to Nazi Germany.
The former secretary of State said that the Russian president is a man "who believes his mission is to restore Russian greatness," and is aiming to regain control of countries that were part of the former Soviet Union.
"When he looks at Ukraine, he sees a place that he believes is by its very nature part of Mother Russia," she added.
Ukraine Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has vowed that his country will not give up the Crimean region, and said there are no grounds for force against civilians and Ukrainians.
"Russia never had any grounds and never will," Yatsenyuk said.
U.S. president Barack Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have condemned Russia's "clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," and have called its actions a threat to international peace and security.
Obama and the other leaders also "affirmed the importance of unity within the international community in support of international law and their support for the Government of Ukraine, including its territorial integrity and its efforts to move forward with elections in May so that the Ukrainian people can continue to determine their own future in this historic hour" and vowed to continue coordinating closely.