The Wimbledon Society’s free lecture series enters very different ground tomorrow Saturday, 23 November, when Sir Rodric Braithwaite, a former British Ambassador to Russia, comes to the Village Hall in Lingfield Road to tell a story of invasion, treachery and a hopelessly doomed foreign policy in far away Afghanistan.
We have heard a great deal about that country since 2001 when British, American and other forces invaded it after the terrorist attacks on New York.
We have mourned every time there have been stories of atrocities there and body bags containing British casualties have been brought back home. But Sir Rodric will not be talking about that.
He was appointed Ambassador in Moscow from 1988 during the last years of the Soviet Union. He stayed on while the Cold War fizzled out and then became Britain’s top representative to the newly independent Russian Federation until 1992.
His talk tomorrow will recall the earlier war in Afghanistan that was still raging at that time, when the invaders came not from the West but the Soviet Union itself.
Every time a foreign army invades Afghanistan its leaders say the result will be different from the previous war. It never is.
Britain invaded more than once during the 19th century and failed to secure the country each time. Sir Rodric will be talking about his prize-winning book Afgansty: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-1989 in which he tells the story of those Soviet politicians who decided to try their own invasion in 1979 and came to regret it for the next ten years.
Sir Rodric Braithwaite
His book covers the soldiers, journalists, aid workers and women who had to cope with the consequences. The parallels with today are all too obvious.
Sir Rodric has a very long background in the British diplomatic service, having joined in 1955. He held posts on both sides of the Iron Curtain in Europe as well as in the Far East and the USA.
He was the Prime Minister’s foreign policy advisor in the early 1990s, chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee, and was awarded the GCMG in 1994. He has also held several academic appointments at both Oxford and Cambridge as well as Washington, and authored two other books about the Russians.
His talk, which starts at 2pm in the Village Hall tomorrow, will cover an unusual subject for Wimbledon, which has no known links with Afghanistan but one rather surprising link with 20th century Russia (see Heritage story 8 June 2012).
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