Do History Lessons Ever Pay off? A Diplomat’s Memoir


  • Rodric Braithwaite



Russian foreign policy; Cold War; diplomatic relations; memoir


Sir Rodric Braithwaite was educated at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, from where he went to serve in HM Diplomatic Service, having worked in Jakarta, Moscow, Washington, Warsaw, Rome, and Brussels, where he was a member of the British delegation to the European Community. From 1988 to 1992, Sir Rodric served as HM Ambassador in the Soviet Union during the decisive years of the Perestroika and the first British ambassador in Russia. Subsequently, he was appointed foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister in the second John Major ministry and chaired the UK Joint Intelligence Committee between 1992 and 1993. He was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1994. As a career diplomat, Sir Rodric gained decades of insight into the troubled relations between Russia and West, having taken part in numerous negotiations on arms control. His affinity with the decision-making circles in both Russia and Britain alongside with the mastery of the Russian language allow him to skillfully dissect the underlying causes of ups-and-downs in Moscow’s relationship with the West, employing the works of both English- and Russian-speaking analysts. Among his recent books are Across the Moscow River (2002), Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War (2006), Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979–1989 (2012), Armageddon and Paranoia: The Nuclear Confrontation (2017). In this essay, Sir Rodric reminisces of the years spent as a diplomat and provides his view on the usefulness and applicability of historical lessons while devising a foreign policy course.

Author Biography

Rodric Braithwaite

Senior Researcher, University of Buckingham.

MK18 1EG, Hunter Str., Buckingham, United Kingdom.


Berlin, I. (1996). The Sense of Reality. L., Chatto & Windus. 304 p.

Braithwaite, R. (2002). Across the Moscow River: The World Turned Upside Down. L., Yale Univ. Press. 384 p.

Braithwaite, R. (2006). Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War. L., Profile Books. 464 p.

Braithwaite, R. (2011). Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan. L., Profile Books. 432 p.

Braithwaite, R. (2017). Armageddon and Paranoia: The Nuclear Confrontation. L., Profile Books. 512 p.

Mikhailov, V. N. (Ed.). (1999). Chelovek stoletiya: Yulii Borisovich Khariton [A Man of the Century: Yuli Borisovich Khariton]. Moscow, IzdAT. 664 p.

Report of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services. (1993). In House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, First Session. 16 August. P. 2, note 2.

Ryabev, L. D. (Ed.). (1998–2010). Atomnyi proekt SSSR. Dokumenty i materialy v 3 t. [The Atom Project of the USSR. Documents and Materials. 3 Vols.]. Sarov, Vserossiiskii nauchno-issledovatel’skii institut eksperimental’noi fiziki, Moscow, Fizmatlit.

Ullman, J. R. (1961). Anglo-Soviet Revelations 1917–1921. 3 Vols. Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press. 376 + 432 + 536 p.



How to Cite

Braithwaite, R. (2020). Do History Lessons Ever Pay off? A Diplomat’s Memoir. Quaestio Rossica, 8(2), 355–366.



Scientia et vita