By Mick Krever, CNN
As tensions rise in eastern Ukraine, Germany may be the key to détente with Russia.
“We are the West's number one modernization partner for Russia,” Markus Kerber, director-general of the Federation of German Industries told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour succinctly on Tuesday.
Germany came in for some early criticism of the Ukraine crisis for being viewed as too soft on Russia, because of the massive trade and historic links between the two countries.
Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel were both behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell – she as a young scientist and Russian scholar; he as a KGB officer. They speak each other's languages fluently.
But if diplomacy doesn't work, then German industry is publicly stepping up to refute the notion that billions of dollars in trade trumps the international rule of law.
“We have a particular responsibility to explain to Russia that they need to turn the ship around, so to speak, and resort to what we all thought was the post-1990 world order, which is the rule of international law.”
The West, Germany, and the European Union have thus far tried to raise the stakes for Russia by passing targeted sanctions against individuals and some organizations.
They have thus far declined to institute industry-wide economic sanctions, which would undoubtedly have an adverse impact on all economies – Europe’s in particular, owing to its close ties with Russia.
Those kinds of sanctions, Kerber said, are still a “long, long road” away, but Germany industry will support them if political leaders deem them necessary.
“We all honor Russian interests in the region,” he said. “We all have interests, all around the world, but we have certain things on which the civilized nations of this world have agreed to work on. And I think we need to resort back to these diplomatic means and to normal negotiations.”
Click above to watch Amanpour’s full conversation with Kerber.