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Russia’s Ambivalent Stance on a BRICS-wide Digital Currency

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At the BRICS summit last year, discussions shifted from the anticipated launch of a unified digital currency to the utilization of local currencies for cross-border payments. Since then, BRICS has grown from five to ten member states, with Russia taking the lead as the current chair of the organization. Despite this expansion, Russia’s stance on a common digital currency remains uncertain. Last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov indicated that while a common currency is not a priority, the possibility of rapid development exists, suggesting that a solution could emerge in under a year.

Evaluating Russia’s Position on a Unified Digital Currency for BRICS Nations

In discussions following the BRICS meetings in February of this year, Russia highlighted the BRICS Bridge, a platform aimed at facilitating payments without explicitly referencing a digital currency. This contrasts with the efforts of two other BRICS members, China and the UAE, who are engaged in the mBridge project—a central bank digital currency (CBDC) initiative for cross-border payments, emphasizing individual digital currencies rather than a shared one.

Elvira Nabiullina, the Governor of the Bank of Russia, has previously noted the complexities involved in creating a single currency for the BRICS nations, a sentiment she expressed prior to the expansion of the group’s membership.

During a press conference last week, Ryabkov discussed the potential for a BRICS common currency. He stated,

“I would not say that this idea has been shelved. Although its implementation involves complex aspects, such as the creation of a single issuance center and a Central Bank to set a common base discount rate, as well as possibilities for borrowing from the Central Bank by the banks of the participating countries.”

Ryabkov also remarked on the readiness of BRICS for such a significant step, given its recent enlargement and 15 years of operation. He suggested that the group is not yet prepared for such experiments but clarified that the idea of a common currency has not been postponed indefinitely. He added,

“A quite bold, quite innovative scheme in this area will be worked out, and in a future that is not measured in years and decades, but much sooner.”

Further adding to the discussion, Governor Nabiullina in January mentioned that the Russian CBDC platform is designed to support integration with similar foreign solutions. She noted, “We are currently conducting consultations and negotiations with many friendly countries and, of course, with the BRICS countries, on cross-border payments through digital currencies.”

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