Chancellor Angela Merkel won industry support as she stepped up her threat of sanctions against Russia, saying that Germany could withstand the economic impact of any measures taken.
Merkel, speaking in Munich today, compared the 76 billion euros ($106 billion) in bilateral trade with Russia with the more than 60 billion euros in trade Germany has with its neighbor, the Czech Republic, a nation of 10 million people. Russia has a population of about 142 million.
“That shows that there is a dimension there, but not to such an extent that it would have an impact on Germany’s entire economic engagement,” Merkel said. Ulrich Grillo, president of Germany’s BDI industry federation, told the same event that he “fully” supports the chancellor during the crisis in Ukraine.
A day after she warned Russia that it risked “massive economic and political harm” if it didn’t change course, Merkel maintained the possibility that diplomatic negotiations could defuse the crisis. Merkel has joined other European leaders in calling on Russia to halt its efforts to seize the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea.
The chancellor said President Vladimir Putin’s government also placed a high value on German-Russian economic ties.
“This isn’t one-sided,” Merkel told reporters after meeting with four industry leaders in the Bavarian capital. “We have interests, but the other side has interests too.”
Merkel, who yesterday likened the effort to annex Crimea to the imperialism of past centuries, said that since the door to negotiations is “always open,” German business representatives need not fear “a great threat.”
“I’m concentrating all of my energy so that we can return to reliable conditions,” she said.
Grillo, whose BDI represents about 100,000 companies, said that industrial interests were holding out for the prospect of a de-escalation in Ukraine.
“Sanctions would certainly impact these relationships, the trust in these relationships,” said Grillo, sitting alongside Merkel. “But international law for me stands above all; we have to respect that.”
In Munich, Merkel also met with Ingo Kramer, president of Germany’s BDA employer association; Eric Schweitzer, president of German DIHK chambers of industry and commerce; and Hans Peter Wollseifer, president of Germany’s main craftsmen association.