Fighting Words: Schäuble Says Putin's Crimea Plans Reminiscent of Hitler

By Christian Reiermann

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble: A questionable comparison could add fuel to the fire in Crimean crisis. Zoom
AFP

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble: A questionable comparison could add fuel to the fire in Crimean crisis.

He's not the first to do it, but he's a big enough player that it could worsen tensions. On Monday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said he saw parallels between Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and Adolf Hitler's land grab of Sudetenland.

As Germany's Mr. Euro, Wolfgang Schäuble is one of the country's best-known politicians abroad. When the finance minister speaks, people generally tend to listen. But on Monday morning, public statements at his ministry raised eyebrows. Schäuble made statements drawing parallels between the politics of Adolf Hitler and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Schäuble said Russia's actions in Ukraine remind him of the expansionism of Nazi Germany. "Hitler already adopted such methods in Sudetenland," Schäuble said at a public event at the Finance Ministry in Berlin on Monday morning. "That's something that we all know from history." Schäuble's comments were directed at the justification provided by the Russians for annexing Crimea. Russian officials claim ethnic Russian residents of the peninsula are threatened by Ukraine. The Nazis argued similarly in the 1938 that "ethnic Germans" in peripheral regions of what was then Czechoslovakia required protection.

Given stewing tensions between Russia and the West and the finance minister's political prominence in Europe, Schäuble's comments could further intensify discord.

The finance minister made the comments while speaking to 50 school children from Berlin participating in a government-organized EU Project Day. Schäuble answered children's' questions about European unity and the euro crisis. He made his remarks after a student asked if the Ukraine crisis could potentially intensify the euro zone's problems. Schäuble said the most important thing was to prevent Ukraine from becoming insolvent. He said if the government in Kiev were no longer able to pay its security forces, "then of course some armed bands would seek to take power." That, he warned, could serve as a pretext for a Russian intervention. "The Russians would then say they can't accept that, that they are threatening our Russian population. Now we have to protect them, and that is our reason for invading."

Eastern Europeans 'Quite Scared'

The finance minister also explained to the students how Russia's occupation of Crimea came about. "At some point the situation escalated and then Putin said, 'I actually always wanted Crimea anyway.'" Schäuble said Putin had justified the action because the Russian Black Sea fleet is located on the peninsula. He said Putin must have told himself, "And the current opportunity is the right one." Schäuble also claimed the Russian president deployed troops near the Ukrainian border, "to show that I can take care of ensuring order if need be."

Schäuble also told the students that concerns about Russian actions are widespread among his colleagues in the EU member states that used to be part of the Eastern Bloc -- particularly Hungary, Poland and the Baltic states. "They're quite scared," he said. He said the finance ministers of these countries have told him personally that they planned to expand their military expenditures. But Schäuble said there were no plans to increase Germany's defense budget. "That would be of no use," he said.

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1. Schäuble on Putin
DavidSalanic 03/31/2014
I am disgusted by Schäuble's comments. Putin has nothing to do with Hitler. The fact that a German minister would trivialize Hitler and make such comparison makes me wonder if Germany forgot its past.
2. Here we go again
Inglenda2 03/31/2014
If Mr. Schäuble made statements drawing parallels between the politics of Hitler and Putin, he is not far off the mark, but it is only a half truth. For many German politicians history starts with 1933. What happened before that they choose to ignore. That Poland threatened to invade Germany and to take Berlin within three days is no longer taught in schools, because it does not fit in with the idea of Germany being to blame for two world wars. The same applies to the Sudetenland, it was stolen by the Czechs, from Austria, at the end of WW1. We should not forget, that Hitler, before changing his nationality, was an Austrian and he wanted the region returned. In so far, the actions of Putin can be understood, but it does not make them any better. On the other hand, when German politicians talk about us all knowing something from history, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, would be more honest. Tensions between Russia and the West are no reason to avoid the facts.
3. optional
peskyvera 03/31/2014
Enough already with this mass hysteria! If Germany were encircled by unfriendly military bases - would it not react and take action? America's dangerous stupidity is nothing new, but now the EU too?
4. Schäuble Reminiscent of Göebbels
nathan der wunderbar 03/31/2014
Ya bestimmt, Putin is like hitler! If you believe that commercial news is the truth then anything is possible including the encirclement of Russia by NATO not looking aggressive. Germany should align with Russia if they want to remain free from being debt slaves of Goldman Sacs/The "FED". China is not going to fall for that propaganda nor is Russia but if you believe commercial media is liberal then the propaganda is working on you. Make people believe the opposite of what is going on and you've got perpetual war. I think it's time we take a look at the work of Edward Bernays. If this name is new to you, enjoy your programming.
5. Backwards World
mikesmith 03/31/2014
As Hugo Chavez said, before the likely US injected cancer killed him, "Are we living in Backwards World?" It is incredibly clear the nazi behavior is coming from the EU/US regime and they are going so far as to support the rise of the neo-nazis in Ukraine. Backwards World indeed it is. I hope not all German citizens eat the fodder for sheep Schauble is putting out.
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