By Chris Hoenig
Hillary Clinton said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric and decision to send troops into Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula is just like what Adolf Hitler did with Nazi Germany.
Speaking to attendees of a Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach (Calif.) fundraiser on Tuesday, Clinton said that Putin’s efforts to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea is comparable to Hitler’s campaigns outside of Germany in the run-up to World War II. In particular, Clinton noted Putin’s issuing of Russian passports to any Crimean of Russian ancestry.
“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” she said. “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 decision to send 16,000 Russia troops into Crimea is, according to Clinton, part of his mission “to restore Russian greatness.”
“When he looks at Ukraine, he sees a place that he believes is by its very nature part of Mother Russia,” she said.
Harry Saltzgaver, Executive Editor of Gazette Newspapers in Long Beach, attended the fundraiser and told BuzzFeed that Clinton did try to limit the Putin-Hitler comparison as well. “She said, however, that while that makes people nervous, there is no indication that Putin is as irrational as the instigator of World War II,” Saltzgaver said.
Clinton’s analogy comes just one day after former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg made similar comments. “What’s happening in Ukraine is history repeating itself,” Schwarzenberg said in an interview with an Austrian newspaper, adding that “Putin is acting along the same principle Adolf Hitler” did in invading Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Ethnic Russians make up about 60 percent of the population in Crimea, which is home to the Russian navy’s Black Sea Fleet. Many Crimeans still speak their native language and carry on Russian and old Soviet traditions, and concerns about separatist violence have grown over the years.
In the past month, protests over former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to turn Ukraine more toward cooperation with Russia than the European Union have turned violent, with hundreds of pro-democracy protesters being killed by pro-government troops. Yanukovych fled Kiev, seeking protection with Putin and allies within Russia. Current Secretary of State John Kerry has travelled to Kiev in an attempt to ease tensions between the countries, and Clinton thinks Russia’s military mobilization is a starting point.
“So everybody is hoping that there will be a negotiation, but a negotiation that respects Ukraine and doesn’t ratify a reoccupation by Russia of Crimea,” she said. “So it’s a real nail-biter, right now, but nobody wants to up the rhetoric. Everybody wants to cool it in order to find a diplomatic solution, and that’s what we should be trying to do.”
Hitler’s belief in the superiority of the German ethnicity led him to invade and occupy Austria in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in 1939. When Nazi forces moved into Poland in September 1939, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany and World War II was underway.
As part of his belief system in ethnic purity, Hitler sent the region’s Jews to concentration camps in an attempt to remove them and their bloodlines from society. More than 6 million Jews were murdered as part of the Holocaust, and an estimated 4560 million people died in total during the war. Among them were an estimated 10,00015,000 gay men and an estimated 220,000 Roma (around 25 percent of all European Roma), killed by Nazi soldiers and in concentration camps.