Montreal (CNN) – Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that the conflict between Russia and Western allies over Crimea is a "clash of values" and that it’s up to Russian President Vladimir Putin whether there's "another Cold War."
"I hope there is not another Cold War," Clinton said during the question and answer portion of an appearance in Montreal. "Obviously, nobody wants to see that. I think that is primarily up to Putin."
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Clinton added that Putin's annexation of Crimea, a move that has rankled Western allies and led the United States to sanction some Russian leaders, is an effort by the Russian leader to "rewrite the boundaries of post-World War II Europe."
Despite Western allies calling the annexation illegal – a charge Clinton echoed – Putin officially announced Russian control of Crimea on Tuesday after voters in that semi-autonomous territory approved a referendum on separating from Ukraine.
The United States, the European Union and Ukraine do not recognize the annexation, however, and relations between Russia and the United State have been damaged by the move.
Back at home, the issue has turned political, with Republican lawmakers questioning President Barack Obama's handling of Putin. Former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, in an op-ed published Tuesday, critiqued both Obama and Clinton for the current state of United States' foreign policy.
During her remarks at a 4,300-person event hosted by the Board of Trade Metropolitan Montreal, Clinton worried that allowing Putin to get away with the annexation of Crimea could have repercussion in the region.
"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," Clinton warned. "There is a lot at stake here."
Clinton said countries "need to get moving in protecting themselves against future intimidation" and gave a handful of recommendations on how to deal with Russian and Crimea.
This is not the first time Clinton has used tough rhetoric against Russia and Putin. The former secretary of state has mentioned the issue in most remarks since Russia first moved to control Crimea. And earlier this month, Clinton compared Putin's action in Crimea to those of Adolf Hitler's in the 1930s.
In the speech, she also offered a slight critique to her own country as well, stating that, "we have got to do a better job of supporting the government in Kiev."
The former secretary of state also recommended more gas and energy independence in Europe as the way to give Western nations more flexibility with Russia.
Russian natural gas production makes up the bulk of consumption in Europe. According to a 2007 report by the European Commission, countries like Denmark, Estonia and Finland get 100% of their natural gas from Russia. Even Germany gets 36% of its natural gas from the Russians, according to the report.
"The dependence of key European countries on Russian energy sources is what gives Russia the ability to intimidate," said Clinton, who used part of her remarks to push for more pipelines to Europe originating from countries other than Russia. The former secretary of state also applauded efforts for Poland to explore hydraulic fracturing.
"The Russians can only intimidate you if you are dependent on them," she concluded.
In addition to talking about Russia and Ukraine, Clinton used most of her remarks to talk about women leadership and participation – topics she touches upon in most of her appearances.
Clinton made the argument that there are political implications for more women in the workplace and in politics, especially as women become the primary breadwinner in households. She also noted that despite advancements in women's rights since she became a public figure in the 1980s, "Women are still judged on different criteria [than men]."
The former first lady was also asked about paid maternity leave, something U.S. companies are not mandated to provide, unlike Canada and most developed countries. Clinton said "ultimately this needs to be a political agenda item that we keep hammering."
Organizers for the Montreal event said they first invited Clinton over a year ago, shortly after she left the State Department in January 2013.
Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade Metropolitan Montreal, said they invited Clinton because they wanted someone who could inspire the crowd and relate to issues of trade, commerce and foreign affairs. Leblanc said the first thing that drew the group to Clinton was "her stature."
In the past, the Canadian Trade group has hosted former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Leblanc told CNN that his group regularly has "former" officials speak to them. He called Clinton both a former and a "future" and an interview with CNN.
"The fact that she might be a future candidate for presidency is clearly of interest," said Leblanc. "We are very aware we rarely have someone who could be a future president."
Clinton was asked about her future plans – something that is becoming predictable and commonplace at all of her public appearances.
"I haven't made up my mind," she said, adding, though, that she feels "a deep sense of commitment to my country and its future."
And to the applause of a supportive Montreal crowd, Clinton said, "You all will be the first to know."