By Catherine Belton in Moscow, Katka Krosnar in Prague and Stefan Wagstyl in London
Published: August 22 2007 11:43 | Last updated: August 22 2007 18:33
Russia challenged western dominance of world international financial institutions on Wednesday by nominating a surprise candidate, Josef Tosovsky, the former Czech premier and ex-central bank chief, to run the International Monetary Fund.
The nomination pitted Mr Tosovsky against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former French finance minister, who has the backing of the European Union.
Russia’s move ran into immediate trouble when the Czech Republic, which joined the EU in 2004, declared that it was standing by the EU’s decision to support the French candidate.
However, Moscow’s move shows Russia’s increasing international assertiveness and willingness to clash with the west over issues ranging from energy supplies to US plans to site missile defence bases in Europe.
The Kremlin has also raised concerns over US-EU domination of international institutions – an issue that plays well with large developing countries, including China, India and Brazil. The IMF chief is traditionally selected by European nations.
Alexei Kudrin, Russia’s finance minister, said the move was aimed at boosting the prestige of the IMF, which had failed to handle financial crises. “Given the IMF’s failures in resolving crises in a number of countries, the IMF needs to raise its prestige.”
Mr Kudrin praised Mr Tosovsky as a proven crisis manager. He said developing states, including Brazil, India and China, had all expressed support for an open selection process in talks.
Mr Putin has slammed world financial institutions as “archaic, undemocratic and unwieldy” and called for their overhaul to reflect the growth of developing nations.
The French finance ministry said of Russia’s move: “We believe that it will not put into question the momentum behind Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s candidacy.”
Mirek Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, said: “Mr Tosovsky was not, and is not, the Czech Republic’s candidate for this post.”
Few countries yesterday backed Moscow’s choice of Mr Tosovsky. Mr Strauss-Kahn, in Beijing on Wednesday, was reported as saying he felt he had China’s backing. A senior Indian finance ministry official told the FT that as far as he was aware there had been “no conversation” about the nomination and he declined to say whether New Delhi would back Mr Tosovsky. A Brazilian presidential official said Brazil sought reform but was not backing any particular candidate.