By Mario Trujillo - 03/19/14 07:06 AM EDT
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday night that it is primarily up to Russian President Vladimir Putin whether there will be another Cold War between Russia and the United States.
During an event in Montreal, Clinton said a new Cold War is not what anyone wants to see. She described the conflict in Ukraine as a "clash of values," according to CNN.
A recent CNN poll showed half the people in the U.S. say a renewed Cold War with Russia is likely in the next few years.
The potential Democratic candidate for president in 2016 said it is important that Putin not get away with his invasion in Crimea or his signing of a treaty Tuesday to annex the region, which voted overwhelmingly to gain independence from Ukraine over the weekend.
She noted, "there is a lot at stake here."
"If he is allowed to get away with that, I think you will see a lot of other countries either directly facing Russian aggression or suborned with their political system so that they are so intimidated that in effect they are transformed into vassals, not sovereign democracies," she said.
She said the U.S. needs to do a better job protecting Ukraine’s new interim government and noted European countries' dependence on Russian energy has partly contributed to Moscow's intimidation tactics.
"The dependence of key European countries on Russian energy sources is what gives Russia the ability to intimidate," Clinton said.
She added: "The Russians can only intimidate you if you are dependent on them."
Clinton has been critical of Putin and Russia's actions in Crimea even before the referendum vote over the weekend, which spurred the Obama administration to impose sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials with the threat of more to come.
In early March, she called Putin a "tough guy with thin skin" and said his claims of invading Crimea to protect ethnic Russians in the region were reminiscent of tactics used in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
“So I just want everybody to have a little historic perspective," she said at the time. "I am not making a comparison, but I am recommending that we can perhaps learn from this tactic that has been used before.”