Tony Brenton Mr. Ambassador
Returning to Moscow for his second posting here after serving as Deputy Head of Mission in Washington, Anthony Brenton is Britain’s new ambassador to Russia. This month he gets the Last Word.
by Stephen Dewar
Your last three predecessors were Sir Rodric Braithwaite, Sir Andrew Wood and Sir Roderic Lyne. Does the appointment of Mr. Brenton signal a change in British foreign policy towards Russia?
Now that the Cold War is over, military experience – even of a medieval kind – is no longer relevant for a British ambassador in Russia.
What are the biggest changes that you have noticed on returning here?
After seven years’ absence, Moscow has visibly become a much more prosperous and cosmopolitan city. I particularly enjoy the huge cultural range that it offers (I love opera and drama). What has got much worse is the traffic.
There has been a lot of criticism in the West recently of President Putin’s proposed electoral reforms. Does Britain have a formal position?
The British Government believes that it is for Russia to build its democracy in its own way. President Putin has regularly underlined his commitment to democracy and human rights, and we are sure that these latest measures will be carried forward in that sense. My Russian interlocutors have been well aware of the concerns on this point expressed in the West.
Do you enjoy living in the British Ambassador’s Residence or do you find it dark and gloomy? Is it haunted?
The British Residence is very grand, but not actually very comfortable. When I need to seem grand it is fine, but it is less fine when I just want to be comfortable. So far as I know it isn’t haunted.
Do you like the architectural style of the new embassy building?
I know that it is a controversial building. To my eye it makes a refreshing change from some of the rather forbidding architecture around it. And it is a wonderful building to work in.
Previous British ambassadors have promoted various charities in Russia. Will you do the same?
I certainly will. I am already involved with a campaign to protect the Amur tiger.
What do your wife and children think about living in Moscow?
They, too, are pleased to be back.
Do you have any pets?
We have two cats: Whisky and Soda.
What are your favorite Russian books?
I am a big fan of Gogol (who could be writing about today’s Russia) and Chekhov. My favorite single work is probably The Government Inspector.
Who is your favorite Muscovite?
Natasha Rostova from War and Peace.