Hillary Clinton’s Hitler Comparison

by David Satter

It is clear from the way she expressed herself that Hillary Clinton was outside her intellectual comfort zone when she compared Putin’s actions in Ukraine with Hitler’s agitation on behalf of the Sudeten Germans. Nonetheless, the comparison was apt. 

Hitler exploited the situation of the minority German populations in Europe to destabilize countries that he planned to take over. Putin lacks the means to be a truly global threat and is seeking to dominate Ukraine rather than annex it. But the method is the same.

The fact that the defense of ethnic Germans was used by Hitler as part of his plan for the enslavement of Europe should make claims by foreign powers to defend “compatriots” unacceptable in contemporary Europe. Such claims are very dangerous. There are large minority ethnic populations in many countries, including, for example, a Chinese minority in Russia which could also soon find itself with a “defender.”

Putin is an authoritarian leader presiding over a fragile regime that is threatened by the example of the anti-criminal revolution in Ukraine. Rallying chauvinistic sentiment in Russia and pretending to defend ethnic Russians in Ukraine is the best way to justify his actions. It is entirely appropriate to remind him of the last person to use that tactic — and how it all ended.

— David Satter is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and adviser to Radio Liberty. He was the first U.S. journalist to be expelled from Russia since the Cold War.