WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Potential Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday tried to clarify comments that left the impression she had compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Clinton, as President Barack Obama's secretary of state in his first term, was a key player in a U.S. effort to reset relations with Russia, a policy that critics say now appears to be a glaring failure.
On Tuesday, Clinton had said Putin's incursion into the Crimea region of southern Ukraine was akin to moves Hitler made in the years before World War Two.
Putin justified sending forces into Crimea by saying he wanted to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, which Clinton said was similar to Hitler's vow to protect ethnic Germans in eastern Europe.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram quoted Clinton as telling a private fundraiser in California: "Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s."
"All the Germans that were, you know, the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people, and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous," she said.
In an appearance at the University of California at Los Angeles on Wednesday, Clinton sought to clarify her comments from the day before.
"I just want everybody to have a little historic perspective. I'm not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before," Clinton said.
Clinton, married to former President Bill Clinton, is considering a 2016 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Polls give her a wide lead over other potential Democratic candidates.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)