WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry warned Tuesday that the crisis over Ukraine was releasing the kind of “nationalistic fervor” that led Europe to World War II.
Condemning Russia’s moves toward annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine, Kerry said he saw a “nationalist fervor which could, in fact, infect in ways that could be very, very dangerous. All you have to do is go back and read in history of the lead up to World War II, and the passions that were released with that kind of nationalistic fervor.”
Kerry, speaking to college students at the State Department, stopped short of directly accusing either side in Ukraine of acting like the Axis powers before World War II.
But he said Russia's desire to take control of Crimea did not justify an annexation that, in his view, violated international law.
It “doesn’t legitimize just taking what you want because you want it or because you’re angry about the end of the Cold War or the end of the Soviet Union or whatever it is,” Kerry said. If Russia believes Crimeans want annexation by Russia, “you need to work through the operative process,” rather than seizing territory “at the butt of a gun” and calling a referendum.
Kerry’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in Moscow his intention to annex Crimea.
Kerry declared that Putin’s move will have a “cost attached.” He said he hoped Russia would not seize additional territory, calling such a move “as egregious as any step that I can think of that can be taken by a country in today’s world.”
The Obama administration Monday announced narrowly tailored sanctions against Russians and Ukrainian officials in connection with the Crimea seizure, and is expected to announce broader economic penalties in the next few days.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last month compared Putin’s seizure of Crimea to Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in 1938. She later stepped back from the comparison.