German Companies Say EU Should Defy U.S., Lift Sanctions on Russia

U.S. sanctions against Russia are counterproductive and they have cost German companies billions of euros in lost business opportunities, an influential German business group said Wednesday, according to Deutsche Welle.

The German-Russian Chamber of Commerce (AHK) carried out a survey of more than 140 firms, which reported more than $1.25 billion in losses since the sanctions came into effect in 2014, the group said.

“The total figure amounts to several billion euros when these numbers are projected onto the entire German economy and the more than 4,500 companies operating in Russia,” AHK CEO Matthias Schepp added.

The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in early 2014. EU sanctions have by contrast had a relatively limited impact on German companies active in Russia, Schepp said.

The business group’s president Rainer Seele accused the United States of using the measures to pursue its own economic interests at the expense of Germany’s “Mittelstand,” a collective term for the country’s famed small- and medium-sized firms.

“These sanctions are counterproductive, fail to serve their political purpose, drive a wedge between America and Europe and harm everyone in the long term,” he said. According to Seele, EU should get started with ending its own sanctions against Russia. The bloc voted to continue the measures at a summit last week.

The AHK said 87% of its members wanted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to pursue better relations with Russia by attending more economic events in the country.

“Germany should not take the butter from the bread of its partners, no matter whether they are in sanctioned countries,” Schepp said. “German policy can send a clear signal without violating the framework of the sanctions.”