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March 6th, 2014
11:19 AM ET

GOP senator compares Putin's ambitions to Hitler's

(CNN) – Republican Sen. Dan Coats has said Russian President Vladimir Putin has imperial ambitions that could threaten the international community. Russia is under fire for its military invasion into neighboring Ukraine.

"This first step is something we ought to put in the context of history. When the Soviet Union came unglued, it was thought that they are not going to be a major world player. Putin has put himself in the place of saying, 'No, I want to restore Russia to its former position,'" said Coats.

Putin insisted Wednesday his military isn't planning to seize Ukraine's Crimean peninsula – but didn't close the door on action "to protect local people." Crimea is mostly populated by ethnic Russians. Should Russian troops intervene, Putin said, "It will be legitimate and correspond to international law because we have a direct request from a legitimate president and it corresponds to our interests in protecting people who are close to us."

"Does this not remind us of what happened with Hitler in the early '20s and '30s?" said Coats.

"And this is the first step for Putin. I don't know if he has designs on moving forward, but I can tell you this: The Baltics are nervous, Poland is nervous, Romania and other nations that have been on the fringe of the Soviet Union ... are now nervous," said the senator.

Coats's remarks come on the heels former Secretary of State, and potential 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton made similar comments at a fundraiser Tuesday.

Read: Clinton compares Putin's Ukraine moves to Hitler, later recalibrates

The White House announced Wednesday that it is targeting certain individuals in Russia for sanctions, punishing the country for the military invasion of Ukraine. But Coats says that is "a small start."

"It's a baby step in the right direction, but given the fact that the United States is viewed as retreating, declining President who is viewed as weak on foreign policy, very indecisive, we need to do a lot more than this, I think, to get this bully that is in the playground stood up to by the United States," said Coats.

"Economic sanctions need to be strong. They need to be wide. Just naming a few individuals is a small start," said Coats, who is also the former U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

Coats introduced a Senate resolution calling to kick Russia out of the G8, suspending the Russia/NATO council, reducing the U.S. diplomatic posts in Russia, and even asking World Cup officials to reconsider soccer matches in Russia in 2018.

"We should work together with the President as a united body, so that we have a unified message to tell the Russians we're not going to tolerate this," said Coats.

The U.S. has about $40 billion a year in trade with Russia, Europe does about ten times as much trade with the country. For sanctions to really hurt, the U.S. needs the Europeans to be involved, but there seems to be great reluctance, especially on the part of American allies in the UK and Germany.

"(We need to) remind Europe that small things that have happened in the past have led to tragic consequences in Europe. It's important to have stability there, and important to have confidence and strength to stand up to these bully tactics of Russia," said Coats.

The administration and Congress can also work work to present alternative economic options to its allies.

"We need to do some things to reassure Europe that given the surplus of energy supplies now around the world, whether it's from Norway, whether it's from the United States, and other places. Europe does not have to be so dependent on Russian energy," said Coats.

For more from Senator Dan Coats, check out the video above.

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