Demonstrators in Kiev
show what they think of Russia's annexation of
Crimea. Is Hillary
Clinton's comparison between the actions of Adolph
Hitler and Vladimir Putin
fair? Historian Patrick van Schie says it is.
Clinton's Hitler-Putin Comment Highlights Weakness of Europe (Trouw, The Netherlands)
"Comparisons with the Second World War should indeed not be
made too easily. Yet Putin's excuse that he 'only' wants to protect the Russian
population in Crimea and elsewhere is an exact copy of Hitler's self-proclaimed
role as patron to ethnic Germans in Sudetenland and the corridor between
Germany and East Prussia. With her historical analogy, Clinton therefore hit
the nail on the head."
West European leaders distanced themselves from the comparison made recently by
Hillary Clinton between Russian annexation of Crimea and Hitler's action in
Czechoslovakia or Poland in the thirties. Comparisons with the Second World War
should indeed not be made too easily. Yet Putin's excuse that he
"only" wants to protect the Russian population in Crimea and
elsewhere is an exact copy of Hitler's self-proclaimed role as patron to ethnic
Germans in Sudetenland and the corridor between Germany and East Prussia. With her
historical analogy, Clinton therefore hit the nail on the head.
frequently mentioned reference to Soviet era is also in dispute. According to
President Obama, there is no question of a new Cold War, as today's Russia in
not the leader of an ideological bloc and because the West isn't looking for a
Cold War. Here, too, the former secretary of state sees things more clearly.
Whether or not there is a new Cold War will not be determined by the West, as Hillary
Clinton said, but by Putin.
is true that Russia is no longer the center of a communist bloc, although the
Kremlin is openly capitalizing on nostalgia for the Soviet era, and Lenin is enjoying
remarkable popularity among pro-Russian (often hired) protesters. However, in
Putinís Moscow, the West is again seen as the great enemy, and the right to
independence of former satellite states is not really recognized.
Moscow considers the alliance of the Baltic States to NATO a decade ago to be
an aggressive act on the part of Washington. The fact that the public and politicians
in the Baltic States sought protection through NATO membership from their
former colonizers in Russia appears irrelevant. As was the case in Soviet
times, the regime in Moscow designates every East European who opposes Russian
domination a "fascist."
is also disturbingly similar to the thirties is the downright weak reaction of West
European leaders. Thanks to wishful thinking - we must above all keep the peace
and therefore not "provoke" - no tough sanctions against Moscow have
been taken. The sanctions package that has been decided on hardly affects the Russians
- and affects the Russians alone. Firmer sanctions would also be felt in West Europe
itself. There appears among E.U. leaders little willingness to suffer
themselves and take real action to respond to the illegal actions of Russia in Crimea.
Alas, Ukraine is indeed a long way away. Once again, 1938 springs to mind, when
Chamberlain declared Czechoslovakia "that faraway country."
are obviously partly symbolic. However, symbols can be worth something. A clear
signal that Putin had really gone too far may not have changed the situation in
Crimea, but for Putin, the current policy of the European Union is above all a
sign that he can continue on his chosen path.
would be extremely dangerous if Putinís statement that he has the right to
protect Russian minorities in the Baltic States were applied. Fortunately,
Obama has explicitly stated that the mutual assistance clause of the NATO Treaty
applies equally to the Baltic States and other NATO members.
commander General Philip Breedlove said last week, that the positioning and readiness
of Western troops in East Europe should be revised as a result of the events in
Crimea. NATO will indeed have to, if necessary, assist the Baltic States or
other NATO allies in East Europe not only through statements, but military aid.
If the Baltic States should want this, then it would be best for the Western
European countries, including the Netherlands, to station military units on
site. Western Europe would then show that its fine words are not just idle
*Patrick van Schie is a historian and director of the Teldersstichting, an independent research agency on behalf
of liberalism allied to the VVD. He writes this
column on a personal basis.