By Nauman Sadiq for VT Islamabad
In a three-pronged blitz from the north, east, and south, Russian ground forces, backed by close air support and volleys of cruise missiles launched from ships, have overrun Ukraine and laid siege to the capital, Kyiv, whose impending fall is days away, reminiscent of precipitous fall of Kabul last August with Chinook helicopters hovering over US embassy evacuating diplomatic staff to the airport.
Chairman Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley squeamishly described the Kabul takeover in his historic Congressional testimony that couple of hundred Pashtun cowboys riding motorbikes and brandishing Kalashnikovs overran Kabul without a shot being fired, and the world’s most lethal military force fled with tail neatly folded between legs, hastily evacuating diplomatic staff from sprawling 36-acre US embassy in Chinook helicopters to airport secured by the insurgents.
Apart from indiscriminate B-52 bombing raids mounted by Americans, Afghan security forces didn’t put up serious resistance anywhere in Afghanistan and simply surrendered territory to the Taliban. The fate of Afghanistan was sealed as soon as the US forces evacuated Bagram airbase in the dead of the night on July 1, six weeks before the inevitable fall of Kabul on August 15.
The sprawling Bagram airbase was the nerve center from where all the operations across Afghanistan were directed, specifically the vital air support to the US-backed Afghan security forces without which they were simply irregular militias waiting to be devoured by the wolves.
In southern Afghanistan, the traditional stronghold of the Pashtun ethnic group from which the Taliban draws most of its support, the Taliban military offensive was spearheaded by Mullah Yaqoob, the son of the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Omar and the newly appointed defense minister of the Taliban government, as district after district in southwest Afghanistan, including the birthplace of the Taliban movement Kandahar and Helmand, fell in quick succession.
What has stunned military strategists and longtime observers of the Afghan war, though, was the Taliban’s northern blitz, occupying almost the whole of northern Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, as northern Afghanistan was the bastion of the Northern Alliance comprising the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups. In recent years, however, the Taliban has made inroads into the heartland of the Northern Alliance, too.
The ignominious fall of Kabul clearly demonstrates the days of American hegemony over the world are numbered. If ragtag Taliban militants could liberate their homeland from imperialist clutches without a fight, imagine what would happen if it confronted equal military powers such as Russia and China. The much-touted myth of American military supremacy is clearly more psychological than real.
Although cutting a dashing figure sporting military fatigues and urging compatriots to rise up in arms against “Russian invaders” in a sentimental address while at the same time pandering to NATO patrons to provide military assistance and impose harshest sanctions on the Kremlin, the fate of Ukraine’s comedian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, would be no different from the deposed president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, who fled to neighboring Tajikistan on the eve of the Taliban invasion with suitcases stashed with $69 million stolen cash and is now comfortably sojourning in the UAE.
In contrast, in a televised address to the nation following the Ukraine intervention, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin uttered a chilling warning to adversaries: “Whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history.”
Warships are transiting the Mediterranean Sea and nearby waters in numbers rarely seen  in recent decades, adding another dimension to the ongoing tensions between NATO and Russia. The USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group arrived in mid-December as part of a long-planned deployment. Another four destroyers began operating in the European theater in mid-January and early February.
Although the US rarely announces submarine deployments, it also is common for carrier groups to have undersea support. The scale of US ships deployed to the 6th Fleet is impressive — including about 12 destroyers and at least one cruiser.
The Truman sailed with the French Charles de Gaulle and the Italian Cavour carrier strike groups. The three carrier strike groups sailing together in the Mediterranean not only was unusual but also a significant show of NATO power.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced earlier this month it soon would send warships — some with Kalibr and hypersonic Oniks cruise missile capabilities — from its Caspian Sea flotilla to the Mediterranean and Black seas.
That’s in addition to at least six Russian amphibious assault ships from the Baltic and Northern fleets that recently sailed through the Mediterranean before entering the Black Sea for military exercises. A Russian Kilo-class submarine armed with Kalibr cruise missiles and a patrol ship also entered the Black Sea.
NATO said earlier this month that their Russian counterparts had conducted themselves professionally at sea. But CNN reported that a Navy P-8 maritime patrol plane had a “very close” encounter with multiple Russian jets, which US officials described as unsafe.
With the sheer scale of naval deployments by both sides, it’s obvious that any inadvertent skirmish could trigger an apocalypse that would not only be perilous for the belligerents but also for the wider world.
At the height of the Cold War in the sixties, Russia exploded the world’s largest 50-megaton thermonuclear Tsar Bomba in October 1961. A Tupolev Tu-95V aircraft took off with the bomb weighing 27 tons. The bomb was attached to a large parachute, which gave the release and observer planes time to fly about 45 km away from ground zero, giving them a 50 percent chance of survival.
The bomb was released from a height of 10,500 meters on a test target at Sukhoy Nos cape in the Barents Sea. The bomb detonated at a height of 4,200 meters above the ground. Still, the shock wave caught up with the Tu-95V at a distance of 115 km and the Tu-16 at 205 km. The Tu-95V dropped 1 kilometer in the air because of the shock wave but was able to recover and land safely.
The 8-km-wide fireball reached nearly as high as the altitude of the release plane and was visible at almost 1,000 km away. The mushroom cloud was about 67 km high. A seismic wave in the earth’s crust, generated by the shock wave of the explosion, circled the globe three times. Glass shattered in windows 780 km from the explosion in a village on Dickson Island.
All buildings in the village of Severny, both wooden and brick, located 55 km from ground zero within the Sukhoy Nos test range, were destroyed. In districts hundreds of kilometers from ground zero, wooden houses were destroyed, stone ones lost their roofs, windows, and doors. Atmospheric focusing caused blast damage at even greater distances, breaking windows in Norway and Finland.
According to an Oct. 2017 Turkish parliament report , there were around 15,000 nuclear warheads at 107 sites in 14 countries, and 93 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons belonged to Russia and the US. Russia had 7,000 nuclear weapons, the US 6,800, France 300, China 260, Britain 215, Pakistan 130, India 120, Israel 80, and North Korea had 10 nuclear weapons.
It added that some 4,150 of the weapons in arsenals were ready to be used at any minute, while 1,800 were in “high alarm” status, which meant they could be prepared for use in a short period of time.
The report also noted that nuclear weapons belonging to the US were deployed in five NATO member states that did not themselves have developed nuclear programs. “There are nearly 150 US nuclear weapons in six air bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey,” it added.
During the Cold War, the US placed nuclear weapons in NATO countries, including Turkey, as part of the organization’s nuclear sharing program. Some of the nuclear weapons placed in the 1960s are still deployed in Turkey.
The safety of fifty American B-61 hydrogen bombs deployed at Incirlik airbase in Turkey became a matter of real concern during the foiled July 2016 coup plot against the Erdogan government after the commander of the Incirlik airbase, General Bekir Ercan Van, along with nine other officers were arrested for supporting the coup; movement in and out of the base was denied, power supply was cut off and the security threat level was raised to the highest state of alert, according to a report  by Eric Schlosser for the New Yorker.
Following the Second World War, the covert Operation Paperclip was launched in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians, including Wernher von Braun and his V-2 rocket team, were kidnapped from Germany and shuttled to the United States. The V-2 rocket program was later adapted to send Apollo missions to the moon. Thus, the US nuclear and ballistic missile programs were actually stolen from Nazi Germany.
Notwithstanding, the mainstream reporting nowadays seems prosaic screeds extolling the virtues of patriotism and loyalty to the “Western democracy” and striving desperately hard to expose imaginary plots hatched by “vile dictators,” notably Russian President Vladimir Putin, to take undue advantage of “gullible patsies” in the alternative news media unwittingly playing the role of Putin’s “useful idiots.”
After sufficiently proving their loyalty to the “American democracy” and the US-led “benevolent imperialism” that has ended “the age of darkness” in the post-colonial world and ushered it into “the age of enlightenment” under Washington’s neocolonial tutelage, the spin-doctors go on to draw the attention of the readers to the misleading notion that since the catastrophic Second World War, the Ukraine intervention is the first-ever war in Europe in the living memory.
It’s worth recalling that the devastating Yugoslav Wars in the nineties in the aftermath of the break-up of the former Soviet Union and then the former Yugoslavia claimed thousands of fatalities, created a humanitarian crisis and unleashed a flood of refugees for which nobody is to blame but Washington’s militarist policy of subjugating and forcibly integrating East European states into the Western capitalist bloc.
Incidentally, one of the leading reasons Putin defensively intervened in Ukraine is to save himself from the fate that befell his predecessors, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, who presided over the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and are judged harshly by Russian masses as well as the Leftists around the world.
Biden approved on Thursday, Feb. 24, an additional 7,000 US troops  to be deployed to Germany, bringing the total number of American forces sent to Europe to 12,000 this month, including troops previously deployed to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. Besides Ukraine, all these states on Russia’s western flank were its staunch allies and the whole of Eastern Europe used to be in the Russian sphere of influence, not too long ago, before the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
But today, the perfidious East European states are hosting thousands of NATO troops, strategic armaments, nuclear-capable missiles, and air force squadrons aimed at Russia, and the NATO forces alongside the regional clients are provocatively exercising so-called “freedom of navigation” right in the Black Sea and conducting joint military exercises and naval drills meant to intimidate Russia into submission.
Who’s the aggressor here? Before attempting to answer the rhetorical question, bear in mind that Ukraine is Russia’s backyard whereas the distance between New York and Kyiv is over 7,500 kilometers. Wouldn’t it be a cause of immense consternation for the US military strategists and policy-makers if Russia or China deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable strategic bombers, and provocatively exercised “freedom of navigation” right by deploying nuclear submarines in the Gulf of Mexico straddling the US borders?
About the author: Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based geopolitical and national security analyst focused on geostrategic affairs and hybrid warfare in the Af-Pak and Middle East regions. His domains of expertise include neocolonialism, the military-industrial complex, and petro-imperialism. He is a regular contributor of diligently researched investigative reports to alternative news media.
 Naval presence in Mediterranean and Black seas at highs rarely seen since Cold War
 US has 150 nuclear weapons in five NATO countries
 The H Bombs in Turkey by Eric Schlosser
 An additional 7,000 US troops to be sent to Germany