FRANKFURT, March 29 Several top German
executives have criticised U.S. and European action against
Russia after the latter's annexation of the Crimea region
triggered the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War, Die
Welt newspaper reported on Saturday.
Herbert Hainer, chief executive of sporting goods maker
Adidas, told the German newspaper he believed the
West waited too long to start talks with President Vladimir
Putin when tensions between Russia and Ukraine rose.
"We should ask ourselves if someone like Putin shouldn't
have been part of the process much earlier, instead of holding
off with talks until it's too late," he said.
Adidas has a high exposure to the Russian market, where it
operates over 1,000 stores. Its share price has taken a hit,
falling 15 percent since the start of the year, at least partly
on concern over the Crimea crisis.
The European Union, United States and other Western nations
have imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its seizure of
the Crimea region and have threatened broader economic penalties
if the crisis escalates.
Russia is Germany's 11th biggest commercial partner, with
trade reaching 76.5 billion euros ($105 billion) last year,
according to the trade association Ost Ausschuss.
Many companies are worried about losing out on business if
further sanctions take effect. Some 300,000 German jobs are
linked to business there and Europe's biggest economy depends on
Russia for 35 percent of its gas.
Some German executives are taking steps to ensure their
business is not put at risk.
The head of Germany's state railway said this week he
planned to travel to Moscow. Joe Kaeser, chief executive of
engineering giant Siemens, drew criticism from some
German politicians for meeting Putin on Wednesday.
Steelmaker ThyssenKrupp's Chief Executive Heinrich
Hiesinger said the events of the past had shown that great
change could be achieved if the West cooperated with Russia
rather than being confrontational.
"Now we have a situation in which Russia feels that its back
is against the wall," he said, adding Russia and the West had to
find a diplomatic way out of the crisis.
Logistics group Deutsche Post DHL's Chief
Executive Frank Appel told Die Welt he believed there were few
viable alternatives to Europe's dependence on Russian gas.
"Since we don't have major sources of raw materials in
Europe, we will always be dependent on others," he said.
"And it seems questionable to me whether dependence on the
Middle East or Venezuela would be better than that on Russia."
($1 = 0.7271 Euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Sophie Hares)