Putin: Beware the Ides of March, warns Peter Polack

March has historically been a bad time for despots, the world over. In the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warned Caesar to beware the Ides of March shortly before he was stabbed to death by a group of conspirators in the Roman Senate, led by Brutus, writes Peter Polack.

Brutus along with many of the conspirators later fell into disfavor and he eventually committed suicide. Brutus is believed to have yelled the Latin equivalent of 'down with tyrants' at the time of the assassination, a phrase said to have been repeated by John Wilkes Booth when he assassinated President Lincoln. March has historically been a difficult time for leaders with attempts on the lives of Queen Victoria and President Reagan. Many political acts that seem to be a good idea with popular support in the immediate are often shunned shortly thereafter or excoriated by historical record.

The world should remain calm because the government and people of Ukraine have matters well in hand, notwithstanding the tragedy of conflict. What can be done has substantially been done, bar moves that would usher in a world war.

As a firm believer in the tipping point concept proselytized by my countryman, Malcolm Gladwell, something, that is the Russian conscript, will creep across the horizon to save us. Ignored by many as a mere tool of propaganda, these conscripts captured in droves by the brave and competent Ukrainian forces and citizenry, will be the tipping point. Putin may have forgotten that it was the death and mutilation of Russian conscripts during the First World War that caused the population to seek revolution, giving rise to a sequence of new quasi-tsars that have now ended with the present officeholder.

The lowly paid and under resourced Russian conscripts come in multiples, often from the same area and through the old magic of gossip and the new wizardry of common communication, the people of Russia are aware that the Ukraine war is not a limited military intervention. Media restrictions or monopoly have not prevented the wide dissemination of images of Russian bodies left on the ground or mass desertion. There is also the no small matter of plaintive and open calls from young conscripts to their loved ones.

The signs are already there with senior officers being dispatched to multiple fronts in a Hail Mary effort to stiffen the rank and file, many ending up dead or captured. Widespread abandonment of equipment and supplies at the earliest opportunity, voluntary declarations that reject the Russian invasion by prisoners, offers of release to the mothers and proper treatment have deeply wounded those in power. If the war is to be ended, it will be at the hand of Russian conscripts, their family, or friends and those amongst the elites who still retain a conscience.

Hope is often an isolated position, while many dance around the destruction maypole with abandon, but it has the benefit of endurance.


Peter Polack is a former criminal lawyer in the Cayman Islands for several decades. His books are The Last Hot Battle of the Cold War: South Africa vs. Cuba in the Angolan Civil War (2013), Jamaica, The Land of Film (2017) and Guerrilla Warfare: Kings of Revolution (2019). He was a contributor to Encyclopedia of Warfare (2013). Polack worked as a part-time reporter for Reuters News Agency in the Cayman Islands 2014-16.

His article Syria: The Evolution Revolution was published in the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center magazine June 2014. In October 2018 Defence Procurement International published an article on the Guerrilla Warfare book entitled What Do Today's Jihadists Have In Common With Famous Guerrilla Fighters Of The Past? The Defence Procurement International Winter 2018 magazine featured his article Brief History of MRAP vehicles. In September 2019 an excerpt from the George Washington chapter of Guerrilla Warfare Kings of Revolution was published in the American Intelligence Journal, Vol 36, No.1.

His most recent articles were Soviet Spymasters: The limits of democracy and Navalny published in Foreign Policy News 7 March 2021 and Russian Military Pay: Does Size Matter? published by EU Today 22 February 2022. In July 2020 McFarland publishers acquired his latest book entitled Soviet Spies Worldwide: Country by Country, 1940–1988 to be published in 2022.

The book is a compendium of Russian espionage activities with nearly five hundred Soviet spies expelled from nearly 100 countries worldwide. In April 2021 he completed Only the Young Shall Die by with Jack McCain USNR about raising the age of military enlistment. He is currently doing research on a curated collection entitled War In Pictures of almost 1,000 images throughout several conflicts over many centuries.

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