When it was reported last week that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had proposed a new currency for the former Soviet republics, as a measure of protecting the region from the financial crisis, the Moscow Times called the suggestion ‘a slap in the face for Russia’. According to its report, Russia had been promoting the ruble for the same role, and Nazarbayev’s suggestion was a not-so-subtle hint to the Russians that Kazakhstan had reservations about the ruble’s capability.
Not so, suggests a new report from Ria Novosti, which quotes Sergei Lavrov sounding relatively optimistic about such an idea. ‘I think that objective consideration of the proposal of Kazakhstan will take place within the limits of EurAsEC. This idea, certainly, will receive development.’ The Novosti piece also explains that the proposed cashless currency – the euras, or yevraz – would not be a replacement currency, but a supplementary one, to be used for interstate transactions between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – an idea similar to, but on a smaller scale than, Russia’s recent G20 calls for a global alternative to the dollar.
Could Nazarbayev’s proposal be an initiative without a subtext? Or is Lavrov demonstrating a masterful ability to control his temper?