In a surprise turn of events, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has broadly endorsed blockchain technology.
The pro-crypto comments came during a meeting with with Herman Gref, the president of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.
Gref, who has previously stated that Sberbank is looking to implement blockchain technology in day-to-day operations, called on Putin to include blockchain technology both in educational and professional training.
“Fine,” Putin responded.
He later added: “Colleagues and citizens of the country may ask: Why do we need all this? We have oil, gas, coals, metals of all kinds…everything!” he said.
“But we need to further advance. This is what we need.”
Putin went on to say that countries which do not seize this opportunity to become a leader and an innovator in blockchain technology, “will very quickly fall under the dependence of the leaders of this [blockchain technology] development.”
“Russia cannot allow this in any case,” he concluded, adding “we need to take the maximum advantage of these factors … to guarantee this progress into the future.”
Putin previously had brought up the idea of a “CryptoRuble.”
That idea was shot down by Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. Siluanov later reversed himself, saying he could envision a future where financiers create a Russian cryptocurrency but not the government itself.
No mention of a Russian crypto was made in Putin’s meeting with Gref.
To its credit, Sberbank has started to implement blockchain technology in its document and storage systems, in partnership with Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). The partnership began in December of last year.
Sberbank also has been looking to open a cryptocurrency exchange in Switzerland.
“We need professionals in this field,” Gref said. “Caution is needed, but it is clear that we need legislation on the matter because this technology has a huge impact.”
While Putin did not say the words “blockchain technology,” every quote did seem to support Gref’s proposal that Russia needs to be on the forefront of this new blockchain industry.
Perhaps the most telling sign of Putin’s support for blockchain came when he used an analogy previously given by a former minister of oil of an unnamed Arab country.
“The Stone Age did not end due to the lack of stones, but because new technologies appeared,” the Russian leader said.
In Putin’s use of this analogy, the traditional banking system is the Stone Age, one which could possibly continue.
But a new technology, blockchain, has come along that will fundamentally alter the way that we all view the world.
So far, the Russian government has begun two public experiments with blockchain technology.
In the first instance, Moscow is testing a blockchain voting system, based on Ethereum. In the second test case, the regional government of Kalingrad is developing a blockchain payment system.