Yesterday, Vladimir Putin announced that "unfriendly" countries would need to pay for Russian gas in Rubles in the near future. The news came with speculation that this is a move to prop up the falling value of the Ruble, that affected countries would have a hard time coming up with a source of Rubles, and that this might constitute breach of contract (as gas contracts specify, among other things, means of payment and cannot be changed unilaterally on short notice).
But even if he gets his way, how does that actually benefit Russia? Major Russian banks (Sberbank, Gazprombank) that deal with gas payments were famously not banned from Swift and thus can still deal with foreign currency, so
- now: Major Russian banks receive foreign currency and can do whatever they want with it (like propping up the Ruble)
- then: Major gas customers would have to buy Rubles (best source would be Russia's central bank, but this one is sanctioned), propping up the Ruble's value, then send the Rubles to major (non-sanctioned) Russian banks.
Seems like a wash to me?! Is this about proving a point like "oh, you want Rubles from our central bank? How are those sanctions working out for you?" Is it about price increases through the back door by setting a price in Rubles? (But then the headlines should be about price increases, not Rubles itself, and besides that would only seem to work if one expects the value of the Ruble to rise.)