BERLIN, July 27 Germans must put peace before
economic considerations and accept tougher sanctions against
Russia if necessary, Germany's finance minister told the Bild am
Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.
The European Union reached an outline agreement on Friday to
impose the first economic sanctions on Moscow following the
crash of a Malaysian airliner and the deaths of 298 people
onboard in an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed
Germany, Europe's biggest economy, sold about 36 billion
euros of goods to Russia last year, or almost one-third of the
German exports to Russia dropped by 14 percent in the first
four months of this year and some business groups have warned
that the decline in trade endangers some 25,000 jobs in Germany.
"Economic interests are not the top priority. The top
priority is ensuring stability and peace," Finance Minister
Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
If German ministers were to warn against sanctions because
of the potential damage to the German economy, then Chancellor
Angela Merkel would have the wrong ministers, he said.
"An erosion of peace and stability would, by the way, be the
biggest danger to economic developments," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin could see the rouble was
losing value and Russia's budget deficit was climbing as a
result of previously agreed EU asset freezes and travel bans on
dozens of senior Russian officials, Schaeuble said.
A poll in Der Spiegel magazine showed that 52 percent of
Germans supported tougher sanctions, even if it meant that
German jobs would be at risk. Some 39 percent were against.
The EU had already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on
some Russian officials after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea
region and in response to its support for separatists fighting
Kiev's forces in eastern Ukraine.
The United States and other Western countries have said they
believe the Russian-backed separatists shot down Malaysia
Airlines Flight MH-17 on July 17 with a Russian-supplied
surface-to-air missile, probably by mistake.
The separatists deny their involvement, and Russia says it
has not provided heavy weaponry to the rebels.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)