Visiting Canada on a goodwill mission, 65-year-old Prince Charles caused quite a stir comparing 61-year-old Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, while speaking directly with a Polish refugee that fled Nazi-occupied Europe in 1939. Charles told Marienne Ferguson, who was 13 when she immigrated to Canada, that “now Putin is doing some of the things Hitler was doing,” making the same loose analogy as former Secretary of State and possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton March 4. Speaking to the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach March 4, Clinton compared Putin’s move in Crimea to Hitler’s in Eastern Europe. “Now, if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s, referring to Hitler’s efforts to protect ethnic Germans in lands as far away as Poland. Charles’ remarks stirred up a hornet’s nest in the British parliament.
What makes Charles and Hillary’s comments so outrageous is the fact the real unlawful coup took place Feb. 22 in Kiev, where duly elected pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was driven from power by an angry mob backed the U.S. and European Union. While no one knows for sure what drove the revolution, Kiev’s pro-Western leaders, acting President Oleksandr Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, claim that Yanukovich’s rejected the EU’s Nov. 29 offer to restructure Ukrainian debt. Yanukovich accepted Putin’s $16 billion bailout of the Ukrainian economy and discounts for paying down past natural gas debts, moving forward with new energy purchases. What irked protesters, led by 42-year-old now incognito former heavyweight champion boxer Vitale Klitschko, about Yanukovich’s deal with Moscow remains unclear.
Putin watched while hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics an anti-Russian coup topple Yanukovich Feb. 22. When the games ended Feb. 29, it only took Putin a few days to invade Crimea March 1. With oil pipelines and his navy base, home to Russia’s warm water Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol, to protect, Putin moved into Crimea to safeguard Russian interests. “I must say that I agree with him and am sure a lot of people do,” said Ferguson, agreeing with Charles that Putin acts like Hitler before he swallowed up most of Europe. When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Accord with Hitler Sept. 30, 1938, he essentially gave ceded Czechoslovakia Hitler, calling the agreement “peace for our time.” Comparing Putin’s annexation of an historic part of Russia comparable in any way to Hitler’s annexation of sovereign European countries, goes over the top.
Western officials often cite Putin’s lament about the 1991 end to the Soviet Union as proof to his evil intentions. As a former KGB agent during the heyday of Soviet times, Putin watched the Soviet Union grow in worldwide clout during the Cold War. Putin also saw the Kremlin’s extreme financial strain of providing jobs, health and retirement benefits to millions of citizens living in the Soviet satellites from the Southern Caucasus Mountains to the Northern Baltic Sea. Watching Charles empathize with a victim of Nazi oppression and muck up Britain’s already strained relations with Moscow shows how the Royal Family should stay out foreign affairs. Charles’ remarks throw gasoline on an already volatile crisis that has watched U.S.-Russian relationship hit the lowest point since the Cold War. Incendiary remarks, whether by heads of state or would be monarchs, have no place in today’s dialogue.
British politicians condemned the Prince of Wale’s comments as inappropriate and counterproductive. “However, we would like to stress that the Prince of Wales would not seek to make a political statement during a private conversation,” said Clarence House in a statement, emphasizing that foreign policy is set by elected officials in both houses of parliament. “In constitutional monarchy policy and diplomacy should be conducted by parliament and government,” wrote Parliament member Mike Gapes. Given the delicate situation with Putin deploying some 40,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, making Hitler comparisons only makes matter worse. While certainly rattled nerves in the Baltic States and Poland, there’s no evidence whatsoever that Putin seeks to seize more sovereign territory in Ukraine or Europe. Scurrilous accusations only make a bad situation worse.
Putin reacted defensively to the Feb. 22 unlawful anti-Russian coup that drove Russian-backed Yanukovich from power. Hostile public remarks from Ukraine’s youthful post-revolutionary leaders also haven’t helped matters, pushing Putin to take more defensive actions. When Putin seized Georgian sovereign territory in South Ossetia and Abkhasia in 2008, it was in response to provocation by U.S.-educated and friendly leader Mikheil Saakashvili. More insulting comparisons to Hitler’s appeasement before WW II shows little understanding of the current geopolitics in the Ukraine. Despite all the pro-Russian support in Eastern Ukraine, Putin signaled he has no intent of taking more Ukrainian territory. Faced with economic and travel sanctions, Putin shows no signs to marching to self-destruction. He’s realizing how his Ukraine policy has hurt Russia’s economy and relations to the West.