Russia has set its sights on blockchain, aiming to lead in the technology just as the U.S. lead with the Internet, reported The New York Times.
The report cited comments the head of the Russian delegation made last year at an international standards-setting meeting for blockchain, the technology that powers cryptocurrency like bitcoin. According to The New York Times, Grigory Marshalko, the Russian delegation head, works for F.S.B., which is the successor to the K.G.B. in Russia. That surprised some of the technologists at the meeting, which was held in Tokyo and brought together representatives from 25 countries.
When asked why Russia was so focused on blockchain standards, the delegation head said it’s because of Russia's aspirations with the technology. “Look, the internet belongs to the Americans — but blockchain will belong to us,” he said, according to one delegate who was there, as reported by the NYT. Two of the other members of the four-person Russian delegation at the meeting were also employed by the F.S.B.
The paper noted that Russia’s interest in leading in blockchain underscores how some governments are giving blockchain a big focus — and shows how the technology will be part of geopolitical battles as countries vie to lead in the space. The interest in blockchain on the part of Russia has caused concern from other delegations that worry countries could back standards that make blockchain more susceptible to surveillance and attacks.
Russia wasn’t the only country to put together a powerful delegation to attend the standards-setting meeting last year. The NYT reported that the 25 countries at the meeting sent more than 130 people combined to discuss blockchain standards. China had an official from the finance ministry on its team, while the U.S. had representatives from IBM and Microsoft. “It is a very sought-out technology today, because it really does create the foundation for the future that is coming,” Gilbert Verdian, the head of the British delegation working on blockchain standards at the I.S.O. and the founder of Quant Network told the NYT. “To get behind it and back it now is going to put people at an advantage, either politically or economically.”
While it’s not clear if blockchain will ultimately live up to its hype, countries including the U.S., Russia, China, Singapore, and Switzerland want to use blockchain for a slew of different tasks. Those that take an early lead in the technology are expected to be the ones that guide how the standards are set for the industry. Still, Craig Dunn, chairman of the I.S.O blockchain committee, told the NYT that he doesn't think any one country could be the one to shape the standards, given that they go through rounds of voting before they are adopted.