Hillary Clinton's Russia comments prompt Republican scrutiny of her foreign policy record

Hillary Clinton: Hitler remark was to provide... 02:49

Hillary Clinton is responding to fallout from her explosive comments on the Ukraine crisis. The former secretary of state says she didn't mean to compare Russia's government to the Nazis, but insists President Vladimir Putin is making a huge mistake in Ukraine.

Clinton has a unique perspective on Putin in that she dealt with him and his administration for four years as secretary of state, CBS News' Nancy Cordes reported.

The comments were originally made at a private fundraiser, but once they became public, she moved quickly to clarify her remarks.

In a speech at UCLA, Clinton commented publicly for the first time on the growing crisis in Ukraine. She said, "(Putin) is squandering the potential of such a great nation, the nation of Russia."

She also tried to clarify comments she made on Tuesday at a closed-door fundraiser where she likened Putin's actions to an early Adolph Hitler. She said at the time, "Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s. 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."

After a tape of her remarks surfaced, Clinton said she had only been trying to provide historical context. "I'm not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before," she said.

And, she joked about Putin's personality. "I know we are dealing with a tough guy with a thin skin," she said. "I've had a lot of experience -- well, not only with him, but with people like that, but in particular President Putin."

Most Republicans didn't quibble with Clinton's comments, but they are focusing fresh scrutiny on the possible presidential contender's tenure as secretary of state, and questioning one of her first major initiatives in 2009 -- an attempt to repair relations with the Russians.

Clinton said back in 2009, "We want to reset our relationship, so we will do it together."

Part of that reset involved pulling the plug on a Bush initiative: a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., argues the move sent Putin the wrong signal. He said, "I think that may have emboldened Putin a little bit because, you know, that really wasn't something that he had a right to dictate, by his ability to say to the administration 'Do this,' and the fact that they did it, I think that was a tactical error."

Royce is holding a vote Thursday in his House committee on a bipartisan resolution that calls for sanctions on Russia and other forms of pressure. CBS News is told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning its own vote on a similar resolution next week. So, Cordes added, there's a unified response coming out of Congress now.