* ThyssenKrupp CEO says Russia's back is against the wall
* Adidas CEO says West waited too long to start talks
* Deutsche Post CEO sees no alternatives to Russian gas
* Development agency says companies drop investment plans
(Adds comments by economic development agency, German Committee
on Eastern European Economic Relations)
By Maria Sheahan
FRANKFURT, March 29 Several top German
executives criticised the strategy of the U.S. and Europe in
dealing with Russia after it took control of the Crimea region,
fearing the consequences for their businesses.
The European Union, United States and other Western nations
have imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its seizure of
the Crimea region of Ukraine and have threatened broader
economic penalties if the crisis escalates, triggering the worst
East-West clash since the Cold War.
Steelmaker ThyssenKrupp's Chief Executive Heinrich
Hiesinger told daily newspaper Die Welt that 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 in an article published on the
paper's website on Saturday.
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.
"Many German companies that invested in Russia last year or
wanted to build production sites there have now given up their
plans or put them on ice," Bernd Hones, Economic Correspondent
at economic development agency Germany Trade & Invest in Moscow,
told weekly paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
He added that German corporations had the impression that
Russian industrial firms did not think it politically
appropriate to do business with German companies.
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 Russian President Vladimir Putin
Some non-industrial German companies, such as retailer Metro
and drugmaker Stada have said they would
continue to invest in Russia as long as threatened G7 sanctions
do not disrupt business.
Herbert Hainer, chief executive of sporting goods maker
Adidas, told Die Welt that he believed the West
waited too long to start talks with 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.
Eckhard Cordes, head of Germany's Committee on Eastern
European Economic Relations, warned that some trade with Russia
could shift to China if Europe turned its back on Russian gas.
"Russia would find new sales markets in China if Europe
limited its energy imports," he told Frankfurter Allgemeine
Sonntagszeitung, adding such a development could not be in
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,
echoing comments Germany's Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel made
"Since we don't have major sources of raw materials in
Europe, we will always be dependent on others," Appel 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 and Elaine