Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly said Tuesday that the moves Russian President Vladimir Putin has made in Ukraine are similar to those Adolf Hitler and the Nazis made in the 1930s.
According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, who had a reporter in the room for the closed Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach fundraiser, Clinton said Putin's rush to protect anyone of Russian descent in Crimea is reminiscent of what Hitler did to protect Germans before World War II.
"Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the 30s," Clinton said, according to the report. "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."
Hitler justified his invasion of neighboring countries by saying they were efforts to protect ethnic Germans. Hitler annexed neighboring Austria and Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland in 1938, one year before invading Poland, which sparked the Second World War. The United States entered the war in December 1941, after Japan, Germany's ally, attacked U.S. naval forces in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
In describing Putin, Clinton reportedly said, "When he looks at Ukraine, he sees a place that he believes is by its very nature part of Mother Russia."
She reportedly added that "everyone" is hoping for negotiations that "respects Ukraine and doesn't ratify a reoccupation by Russia of Crimea."
"So it's a real nail-biter, right now, but nobody wants to up the rhetoric," she said according to the report. "Everybody wants to cool it in order to find a diplomatic solution and that's what we should be trying to do."
Buzzfeed was the first to report Clinton's remarks and a Clinton spokesperson did not respond to emails requesting comment.
Tensions between Russia and Western powers, like the United States and European Union, have skyrocketed since Putin deployed troops to the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea over the weekend. The deployments comes after the pro-Russian government in Ukraine was toppled by months-long demonstrations in the capital of Kiev.
On Tuesday, a defiant Putin decried what he called an illegitimate Ukrainian government that illegally seized power in a coup with U.S. backing, arguing that his country has a right to use military force. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, warned that invading forces was a desperate Russia breaking international law.
The Russian leader, in defending his moves in Ukraine, also used a reference to Nazis.
"Firstly, we have a request of the legitimate President Yanukovych to protect the welfare of the local population. We have neo-Nazis and Nazis and anti-Semites in parts of Ukraine, including Kiev," Putin told reporters.
Clinton was Obama's top diplomat for over four years, but since leaving the State Department in early 2013, she has largely shied away from talking about many of the foreign policy issues she once addressed.
The former first lady and former senator from New York State says she'll decide on a second White House bid by the end of the year. If Clinton does run, she would instantly become the front runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, with poll after poll showing she is her party's top choice for the White House.
Since the fall of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine, Clinton has not been afraid to use tough rhetoric to describe Putin. Last week, in a closed press event in Orlando, Florida, Clinton said that the Russian leader would "look seriously" at consolidating Russia's position in eastern Ukraine if the opportunity presented itself.
Clinton said Putin is a man who "sits as the absolute authority now in Russia and it is quite reminiscent of the kind of authority exercised in the past by Russian leaders, by the czars and their successor Communist leaders."
Yesterday's $1,500 a plate fundraiser at the Boys & Girls Club was not Clinton's only event of the day. The former secretary of state also addressed a large audience at the annual gala for the Association of Corporate Counsel America, Southern California Chapter.
According to Amjad Mahmood Khan, a lawyer who was in the room, Clinton did not make similar comments comparing Russia and Nazis but did talk extensively about Ukraine and Putin.
Khan also said that Clinton defended the Obama administration's actions on Ukraine against criticism delivered by Sen. John McCain, who on Monday described Obama's foreign policy as "feckless" and somewhat responsible for the crisis in Eastern European country.
"McCain came up in a question and answer," said Khan. "She said, I have a great relationship with him but he is just misguided on his view of
the administration's handling of the U.S. Russia reset. She was somewhat defensive on those comments, but she did it in a respectful way."
McCain, however, was supportive of Clinton's comments comparing Putin's moves to that of Hitler. On Wednesday afternoon, McCain tweeted "She's right on this comparison" and included a link to the Long Beach Press-Telegram story.
Clinton is on a three day trip to the West Coast and Canada. On Wednesday, the former first lady will deliver a lecture at UCLA and then fly to Vancouver, where she will speak to the Vancouver Board of Trade's Women's Leadership Circle.
On Thursday, Clinton will deliver remarks at a closed event in Calgary.