Has Hillary Clinton gone hawk? She has reportedly likened Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula to those of Hitler in Czecholslovakia and Romania in the late 1930s.
The former Secretary of State made these comments last night in California while speaking at a private benefit for The Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach. According to the Long Beach Telegram, Hillary, who was commenting on the Russian population of Crimea, said, “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.”
Assuming the Long Beach Telegram got it right, Hillary is doing three things. First, she’s distancing herself from the Obama Administration which has characterized Russia’s action as “undisputed arrival” rather than an invasion. Second, she’s also trying to outflank Republicans by giving the appearance of being more hawkish. Third, she is also trying to make people forget her tenure as Secretary of State.
While I am sure a compliant media would be more than happy to assist Hillary in this endeavour, it is going to be hard to take Hillary likening Putin to Hitler seriously when she was the one who pushed the reset button with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov almost five years ago today. But, of course, a week in politics is a lifetime.
Now it is true that there isn’t much love lost between Putin and Hillary. In December 2011, Putin accused Hillary of sending “the signal” to Russia’s opposition who were planning massive demonstrations against Putin. Then again it doesn’t take much to raise the ire of Putin. A year later, Hillary would accuse Putin of trying to “Re-Sovietize” Central Asia through economic intregation. But an argument can be made that Hillary was already trying to distance herself from Obama as she was exiting the administration.
The only other elected officials who have compared Putin’s actions in Ukraine to Hitler’s in Eastern Europe are Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird. The difference here is that while Harper and Baird have done so out of conviction, Hillary is doing so out of convenience.