Rodric Braithwaite

Sir Rodric Braithwaite is a former British diplomat who served as the Ambassador to Moscow

Why Russia couldn’t give up on empire  

One hundred years ago this December, delegations from the core nations of the East Slavs, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus signed the ‘Declaration and Treaty on the Formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’. They had with them representatives of the ‘Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic’ artificially constructed by the Communists who had just won a horrifically

The unedifying Afghan blame game

A year ago we scuttled out of Afghanistan. We abandoned the aim we and the Americans had proclaimed so noisily of bringing Afghanistan into the twenty-first century so that the Taliban could never triumph again. We left behind many Afghans who had helped us at the risk of their lives. To most of the world

Putin will not survive a failed war in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has had a very bad week. His army, allegedly refurbished after its poor performance in the war against Georgia in 2008, has failed to deliver the promised blitzkrieg. It has launched a brutal bombardment of Kharkhiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, full of Russian-speakers who were supposed to welcome Putin’s soldiers as liberators. Meanwhile,

Why autocracy in Russia always fails in the end

Churchill was wrong: Russia is neither a riddle nor an enigma. Russians themselves concoct endless stories to glorify their country’s achievements and minimise its disasters and crimes. But the rest of us do much the same, as we try to explain Britain’s imperial history or the impact slavery still has on America’s revolutionary ideals. Russia

Putin’s nightmare is becoming a reality

‘Those he commands move only in command, nothing in love’. Shakespeare always gets it right. I remembered his words about Macbeth as I watched a shifty Vladimir Putin force the members of his Security Council to bob up and down as they tremulously affirmed their support for his wise policy on Ukraine. This enforced compliance

Has Putin lost control?

As the Soviet Union fell to pieces around our ears, we in the Moscow embassy used to discuss the Weimar precedent. A great nation, humiliated by a lost war and economic misery, tries but fails to set up a democracy. It then falls victim to a dictator who promises to restore his country’s greatness and

Afghanistan and the end of the American hegemony

We used to sneer at the way the Russians were chased out of Afghanistan by a ragtag of mujaheddin armed only with Kalashnikovs and American Stinger rockets. No longer.  The last superpower to be defeated in Afghanistan withdrew in good order, having negotiated the arrangements with Kabul and the mujaheddin. They left behind a competent

Demystifying the world of espionage

John le Carré once wrote sadly that he felt ‘shifty’ about his contribution to the glamorisation of the spying business. David Omand doesn’t deal in glamour. He was at the top of the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, director of the code-braking Government Communications Headquarters, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and responsible

The Big Three who ended the Cold War

Historians argue endlessly and pointlessly about the extent to which the human factor rather than brute circumstance determines the course of events. History, geography and economic reality always constrain personal freedom of action. But within these limitations the individual can make a decisive difference. Britain’s war would have taken a different turn if Halifax rather

Behind the irony curtain

The comedy of Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, the two glum Russian ‘tourists’ who denied on television that they were involved in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, seems set to run and run. The Moscow press tells us that Russia’s ‘Golden Brand’ has offered them a brand name for a company specialising in tourism, women’s

Knowing your enemy

Espionage, Christopher Andrew reminds us, is the second oldest profession. The two converged when Moses’s successor Joshua sent a couple of agents to spy out ancient Jericho. There they were sheltered by the madam of the local brothel. All three are heroes in Israel today. Generals and politicians have always needed secret information to track