Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday compared Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine to actions taken by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler outside Germany in the run-up to World War II.
Making her first extensive comments about the crisis in Ukraine, Clinton said at a private fundraiser in California that Putin's campaign to provide Russian passports to those with Russian connections living outside his country's borders is reminiscent of Hitler's protection of ethnic Germans outside Germany, according to a report published overnight.
"Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s," Clinton said Tuesday, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. "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."
The Press-Telegram appears to have been the only publication present for Clinton's remarks at an otherwise closed-press luncheon fundraiser Tuesday attended by about 250 people to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach.
Earlier Tuesday, BuzzFeed reported that Clinton spoke extensively about the situation in Ukraine, quoting Harry Saltzgaver, the executive editor of the Gazette newspapers group in Long Beach, who attended the Clinton event as a guest.
"She compared issuing Russian passports to Ukrainians with ties to Russia with early actions by Nazi Germany before Hitler began invading neighboring countries," Saltzgaver told BuzzFeed. "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 later told The Washington Post that he did not intend to "start a firestorm" with his description of Clinton's speech. A Clinton spokesman did not reply to a request to provide a recording or transcript of her remarks or to elaborate on them or offer additional context.
Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said Putin "believes his mission is to restore Russian greatness," including reasserting control of former Soviet Union countries, the Press-Telegram reported. "When he looks at Ukraine, he sees a place that he believes is by its very nature part of Mother Russia," Clinton said, according to the Press-Telegram.
Clinton added that she believes any compromise between Ukraine and Russia will come in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula where there are many Russian speakers and where Putin has stationed Russian troops. She said she was hopeful about Secretary of State John F. Kerry's diplomatic efforts in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
"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," Clinton said, according to the Press-Telegram.
"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."
Clinton is giving a series of speeches this week in California and western Canada. She plans to appear at the University of California at Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon to give a lecture, answer questions from a faculty member and accept an award from the university.