Turkey Threatens Closing the Bosporus on Russian Ships

Turkey Threatens Closing the Bosporus on Russian Ships

MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images

The Crimea referendum to join Russia has Turkish Tatars worried about renewed violence. And Ankara is backing them.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a strong message to Russia on March 18, saying he will close the Bosporus to Russian vessels if there is any harassment of Crimea’s Turkish minority, the Tatars.

“If self-proclaimed Crimean authorities or so-called self-defense fighters commit violence against Crimean Tatars living in the peninsula, Turkey will be forced to close the Bosporus for passage of Russian ships,” Erdoğan said on Turkish television.

Closing off the Bosporus, the only exit and entry point into the Black Sea, would effectively mean cutting off Russian seaborne trade to the Mediterranean as well as incapacitating the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

While at this time it is unlikely Turkey will go ahead with such a move considering its current dependence on Russia for 60 percent of its energy needs, Erdoğan’s strong rhetoric indicates Turkey is firmly siding with the West on Russia’s takeover of Crimea.

According to an article titled “Turkey Moving Away From Russia Over Crimea” published in Xinhau on March 18, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, “Turkey does not recognize the Crimean referendum, calling the poll, ‘illegitimate’ ….” The foreign minister continued, “I clearly stated that this referendum is not recognized by Turkey. This referendum has no legitimacy. We are in contact with the European Union and nato on the steps that will be taken.”

The Crimean referendum on whether Crimea should abandon Ukraine and join Russia received 97 percent approval from the voters. However, not everyone turned up to vote. Notably boycotting the vote was a full 15 percent of the Crimean populace, the Turkish-speaking Tatars.

Many of the almost 300,000 Tatars living in Crimea fear a return to Russian rule will result in an abuse of their minority rights. The Sunni Muslim Tatars have inhabited the Black Sea region for centuries. However, after World War ii, Tatars living in Crimea were deported to Siberia by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Starvation and disease led to the deaths of as many as 200,000.

Finally, in the late ’80s and ’90s, a quarter of a million Tatars were allowed to resettle in Crimea. Now, with Russian rule pending, Tatars are terrified, and their Turkish mother is moving to protect them.

While it is not surprising that Turkey, which currently has 4 million Tatars within its borders, is voicing concern for the safety of its Crimean counterparts, the degree to which it has lambasted Russia and sided with the EU is startling.

Historically, both Russia and Turkey have been able to overcome their differences and continue a thriving dependent economic relationship. However, cracks are emerging between the two nations. As Bible prophecy indicates, Turkey will eventually shake off its dependency on Russia to form an even closer strategic alliance with Europe.

Iran: Russia’s Trump Card

Iran: Russia’s Trump Card

MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

Moscow’s relationship with Tehran gives it critical leverage over America and Europe.

The Trumpet recently highlighted the prophetic significance of the support China, India and even Japan are giving Russia as it confronts Europe and America over Ukraine. But Moscow is solidifying friendships beyond Asia, and one in particular bears close attention. This is Russia’s relationship with Iran.

First, recall how much diplomatic energy Europe and America have invested in recent months in improving relations with Tehran in the hope of securing a permanent peace agreement. America’s president has worked especially hard to placate Tehran. As his presidency winds down, and with his domestic policies flailing, Barack Obama wants to go down in history as the man who negotiated peace between the U.S. and its most implacable enemy. Although it’s a pipe dream, securing a deal with Iran is one of the Obama administration’s chief foreign policy ambitions.

Today, after months and years of compromise and capitulation, America and Europe (the P5+1) are on the cusp (at least this is what Tehran has led them to believe) of securing what they believe to be a historic deal with Iran. After a preliminary deal struck last November in Geneva, the P5+1 anticipates a fully fledged deal over the next few months.

That is, unless Vladimir Putin strikes first.

Russia’s relationship with Iran is complex. The Kremlin isn’t thrilled about the idea of a nuclear Islamist state to its south, or Iran’s sponsorship of Islamist terrorists in Russia’s periphery, particularly in the Caucasus. On the other hand, befriending America’s enemy provides certain benefits, chief of which is significant leverage over Washington. And as Western efforts to punish Putin for his behavior in Ukraine mount, the Kremlin is seeking leverage by revitalizing its friendship with Iran.

In February, Iran’s ambassador to Russia announced that the two nations were working on an oil-for-goods deal. Under the deal, Iran will send 500,000 barrels of oil a day to Russia in return for Russian goods and even Russian help building nuclear power plants. On March 12, Iran’s official news agencies reported that Russia had agreed to build two new 1,000 megawatt nuclear power stations. These will be in addition to the Bushehr facility, which Russia also built.

The reports made no mention of how much oil Iran would be sending to Russia in exchange. But as of October last year, Iran was exporting under 800,000 barrels of crude oil per day—down from nearly 2.5 million in 2011. Selling another roughly 500,000 barrels to Russia would be a big deal—almost doubling its oil exports. For Tehran, the addition of a couple of extra nuclear power plants is always a good thing too. Russia’s support of Iran dilutes Western efforts to marginalize Tehran, and reduces the incentive on Iran to negotiate with the West.

The deal with Iran hasn’t been finalized, so there’s plenty of time for Russia to back down if the West concedes in Ukraine. But Moscow’s timely dalliance with Iran is a clear warning to America and Europe—a reminder that the Kremlin has the power to tank Western negotiations with Iran.

America has gotten the message too. “We all hope that the incredibly difficult situation in Ukraine will not create issues for this [Iranian] negotiation,” a U.S. official told Reuters on March 14. “We hope that whatever happens in the days ahead, whatever actions that we in the international community take depending upon the decisions and the choices that Russia makes, that any actions that Russia subsequently takes will not put the negotiations at risk,” he said.

Gary Samore, a former White House coordinator for arms control, recently warned that just the disunity between Russia and the rest of the negotiating team could “lead to at least the appearance, if not the reality, of disarray within the P5+1.” Iran could find this disconcerting, and make it feel “more able to walk away from the nuclear negotiations,” he said.

This isn’t to say that Western negotiations with Iran depend on support from Russia. The Kremlin has never been a genuine supporter of negotiations with Tehran. However, America and Europe do require the Kremlin to be aloof from the negotiations and willing to leave Iran alone to negotiate. An active Russia-Iran axis, with the Kremlin actively supporting Tehran—and gaining influence in the process—would complicate peace negotiations enormously. Russia and Iran are formidable foes individually, but a serious alignment between the two would be a nightmare.

Buying oil for Iran is only the start of what Russia could do. For example, back in 2010, Russia agreed to sell Iran an S300 air defense system. Moscow pocketed Iran’s cash, but never delivered the goods. It could change that now. Giving Iran one of the world’s best surface-to-air missiles would make any attack on Iran much more difficult.

It’s possible Russia’s relationship with Iran may be part of the reason Washington hasn’t responded more aggressively to Putin’s belligerence in Ukraine. Is the Obama administration more concerned about peace with Iran than with America’s treaties with Ukraine or confronting Russia?

The actor to watch in all this is Europe. Europe doesn’t have the breathing room that America has with Iran and Russia. The Continent isn’t separated from either power by massive oceans. Europe has significant financial and energy assets at stake in both Iran and Russia. Europe is within range of Iran’s ballistic missiles, and Islamist terrorists are embedded throughout the Continent. For Europe, the behavior of the regimes in Moscow and Tehran are of supreme importance—and the idea of them working together against Europe is deeply disconcerting!

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows that the Kremlin does not respect the sovereign borders in Eastern Europe. Europeans are well aware of their history with Russia, and what can happen when either side doesn’t respect its borders with one another. For Germany and Europe, responding to Russia, at the very least showing itself capable of displaying equal power and force, isn’t a luxury. It is a necessity, and one it will have to fulfill soon.

From the outset of the crisis in Ukraine the Trumpet has warned that Europe is the place to watch. The dramatic developments in Ukraine are forcing the Continent to address its many issues and figure out a way to coalesce into a force capable of confronting Russia, Iran and other crises coming its way. Separately, Iran and Russia already deeply concern Europe. You can be sure the development of a more significant axis between these two will intensify Europe’s anxieties and increase the pressure on Europe’s leaders to create the Catholic-inspired, German-led united European superpower that we have long forecast.

40 Rockets Fired Into Israel

40 Rockets Fired Into Israel

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But why wasn’t Hamas doing the firing?

Another week of bleak weather in Israel—cloudy with a chance of rockets. In some ways, this latest storm isn’t much different than that which billowed in late 2012 prior to Operation Pillar of Defense. Yet there is one major distinction: This time, Hamas is not initiating the deluge.

Although the Gaza Strip is a small sliver of land, it is home to several terrorist groups. While Hamas is considered the dominant power and governor of the Strip, it faces growing challenges from other even more radical groups.

One such group claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s downpour of rockets. Proclaiming the strike was in retaliation to Israeli actions, the al Quds Brigade—the military branch of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (pij)—stood defiant in the face of Israeli retaliation. For this group, the more heavy-handed Israel’s response the better. It wants another showdown with Israel.

The pij has operations in Gaza and the West Bank, and receives commands from its headquarters in Damascus. It also has offices in Beirut, Tehran and Khartoum. Although outnumbered by Hamas in Gaza, it is by no means incapable of conducting its own operations there. It proved as much this past week by raining down rockets and mortars on towns in southern Israel.

The pij has berated Hamas for not standing up to Israel, instead choosing the acquisition of power over jihad. The group wants more control of the Strip to establish itself as the new face of resistance against Israel. That is why it relishes a new confrontation with Israel.

Right now, Hamas is vulnerable. Increasing isolation has weakened the group. Iran has cut much of its funding after Hamas refused to get involved in the Syrian crisis. Hamas’s fallout with its sponsor—which provided it with an estimated $23 million a month—was a serious setback. The financial woes have only been compounded by the restrictions enforced by Egypt on Gaza’s southern border. Hamas is being starved of the black market goods that once poured in through the now-closed tunnels from Egypt.

The pij sees Hamas’s vulnerability, and will do what it can to capitalize on it—including inciting a fresh wave of violence against Israel.

Until the Syrian war began, Hamas was happy to take orders and funds from Iran. But Hamas’s refusal to support Iran in Syria dissolved this relationship. Since then, Qatar and Turkey have replaced Iran as Hamas’s sponsor. This had Iran searching for a Palestinian replacement in its proxy war from the Gaza Strip. Enter Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

While it is unlikely that the pij will overthrow Hamas, the fact that pij is now initiating terrorist attacks on Israel is evidence of the broken relationship between Hamas and Iran.

Relations between Hamas and Iran are prophesied to break down even further. To understand, read “A Mysterious Prophecy.”

Will Moldova Be the Next Ukraine?

Will Moldova Be the Next Ukraine?

MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

The ex-Soviet state may find itself back under Russia’s grasp.

Russia’s recent deployment of troops in Crimea has Eastern European nations on edge. Concern is growing among leaders that the crisis in Ukraine could spread.

The Moldovan government is currently involved in signing a possible trade deal with the European Union. Reuters says the pact “is similar to that which Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich dumped, sparking the crisis which brought him down.”

Just like with Ukraine, Russia is using similar tactics to make sure the former Soviet Union state stays within its camp. “Moscow is now in the process of infiltrating the last pro-European republics in its sphere of influence,” writes Der Spiegel’s Christian Neef in an article titled “Russia Tries to Woo Back Moldova.”

According to Neef, Russia is now boycotting wine imports from Moldova, one of the country’s largest exports. Additionally, Russia is threatening to prevent the nearly 1 million Moldovans who work within Russia from sending money home to support their families.

Russia has also threatened to cut off its natural gas supply to Moldova—a move that would devastate the tiny agricultural nation. International Business Times editor Palash Ghosh says that what “Moldova lacks and desperately needs to keep its economy afloat—energy—now comes from Russia. In the event Moscow cuts off gas supplies, Moldova’s fragile economy could collapse.”

This has been the Russian strategy for years: bullying weaker and smaller nations into submission by threatening to cut off energy and destroy trade.

Russia has its supporters in Moldova though, just like in Ukraine.

In Gagauzia, a region in southern Moldova, over 98 percent of voters said they would choose closer relations with the Russian Customs Union than the EU.

Last week, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca also expressed his deep fear of possible Russian involvement in an autonomous region of Moldova known as Transnistria. This region is being termed Moldova’s Crimea.

“Moldova has long faced its own secessionist threat in its autonomous Transnistria region, which broke away in 1992 after a brief war and also boasts a Russian military contingent—meaning the region is under de facto control of Moscow,” Ghosh continued.

“With a breakaway territory within its borders, where 2,500 Russian soldiers guard arms stocks from the Soviet era,” Reuters reported, “Moldova is looking on nervously at the crisis in Crimea, roughly 360 kilometers (225 miles) to the east along the Black Sea coast.”

If Moldova doesn’t comply with Russia’s commands, could Vladimir Putin use Transnistria to get a foothold over the nation, just like he used Crimea in Ukraine?

Prime Minister Leanca warns, “If we do not find a decision to the problem of Transnistria, then this sickness (of separatism) will become dangerous and contagious ….”

As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in his article “Is Vladimir Putin the Prophesied ‘Prince of Rosh’?

Some Europeans recognize that Putin’s power maneuver on Ukraine is no isolated incident.Back in 2005, the Russian president called the demise of the Soviet empire ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.’ Given the dozens of millions of Soviet citizens who were imprisoned, persecuted and murdered under that authoritarian system, most of us would say the opposite! Those hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian protesters certainly think the opposite. But not Mr. Putin. He not only mourns the ussr’s collapse—he is bent on rebuilding it and restoring the glory of imperial Russia!Putin made these goals clear in 2008 by invading Georgia. He is doing everything he can to prevent Georgia, Ukraine and all other former Soviet countries from developing closer ties with Europe.

The Soviet Union collapsed just a little over two decades ago. Now it is making its resurgence—fast. Ukraine is coming under the Soviet fold, and now possibly Moldova. The governments of these former Soviet Nations are scared and looking west for support. But America’s weakness has allowed Russia’s rise.

Bible prophecy says these events will lead to the reunification of an old superpower, the Holy Roman Empire. (Request our free booklet Germany and the Holy Roman Empire to find out more.) With Russia’s rising might, some former Soviet nations will look to Germany for help. Although Germany is not in a position to act militarily just yet, watch for it to continue to ramp up its defense policy. Read Mr. Flurry’s article “Is Vladimir Putin the Prophesied ‘Prince of Rosh’?” for more information.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx: A Man to Watch?

Cardinal Reinhard Marx: A Man to Watch?

Franco Origlia/Getty Images

What role will the man labeled as ‘the German pope’ and ‘Europe’s super bishop’ play in the Catholic Church?

The archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, is emerging as one of the Catholic Church’s most powerful figures—perhaps second only to the pope.

Marx has risen quickly through the Catholic hierarchy. He was Benedict xvi’s surprise pick as archbishop of the former pope’s hometown and leader of the church in Germany’s Catholic heartland, Munich, Bavaria, in 2007. Benedict then elevated him to a cardinal in 2010, at the age of 57, making him the youngest cardinal at the time.

But Marx has achieved especial prominence under Pope Francis. Marx is perhaps the best known of the “G-8,” or Council of Cardinals—eight of the church’s top leaders that Pope Francis chose to advise him on how to reform the church’s government.

One of the pope’s main focus so far has been economic reform. His Evangelii Gaudium, the subject of a recent Trumpet cover story, called for the creation of a new Catholic economic system.

This is Marx’s area of expertise. Perhaps because of his name, Marx is the church’s most outspoken preacher of Catholic social and economic doctrine. In 2008, he published a book, Das Kapital: A Plea for Man, where he made the same kind of criticism of the modern economy that Francis made in Evangelii Gaudium. The financial crisis of 2008 meant that the world needs a “fundamental social debate,” Marx said.

A few years later, in 2012, he urged Europe to move “beyond capitalism” during a speech titled “Economic Crisis as an Opportunity of Change.”

“The state is not a bad thing, as Aristotle told his disciples,” he argued during a question and answer section of the speech, as he encouraged governments to play a stronger role in the economy.

When Pope Francis was accused of Marxism after publishing Evangelii Gaudium, Cardinal Marx leapt to his defense. In the church’s official L’Ossveratore Romano newspaper, the cardinal confronted the accusation by saying that the pope’s words were based on Catholic social doctrine and tradition.

Marx is also one of the best placed men in the Catholic Church to put his idea on economics into practice. He is the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (comece) and so is the top catholic official responsible for engaging with the European Union.

Marx’s star has risen even further in the past week. On March 8, the pope appointed him head of the new Council for the Economy, designed to oversee the Vatican’s economic management. The Catholic Church’s descriptions of the council seem quite vague, and it’s too early to say, in practice, what the council will actually do.

Then, on March 12, Marx was elected the head of the German Bishops’ Conference—where he used to be the head of the Committee for Social Issues. After his appointment, Germany’s Stern magazine heralded him as “The German Pope,” writing that “[w]ith his election as head of the German bishops, Cardinal Reinhard Marx has gained an unprecedented abundance of power in Germany.” Die Welt called him “Europe’s Super Bishop” and “the new strongman of the Catholic Church in Germany.”

“After years of crises and the meek dealings with Rome,” continued Die Welt, the German bishops now want to “play internationally again.” Tages Spiegel called him “a man of action” and a “decision maker,” adding that he was one of the few German bishops who “thinks politically” and is not afraid to get involved in politics.

After his election, Marx said he wanted to raise the voice of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, he said, has given the church “new momentum, and that has to grow.”

Like the current pope, Marx defies the quick and easy left/right labels that are easy to stick on bishops. He is theologically conservative and somewhat of an authoritarian, but not extreme in either of these areas. Economically, he gives a very similar message to the pope, but without the same display of poverty.

The Trumpet has long forecast that Europe will soon embrace a Catholic economic system. In this way, the Catholic Church will play a major role in fixing Europe’s economic crisis. The adoption of that Catholic system will be a major world event. Could Reinhard Marx play a major role in making that happen? He is exceptionally well placed to do so.

For more on the Catholic Church’s economic teachings and how they will soon affect Europe, read our article “Much More Than an Economic Plan” from the March 2014 edition of the Trumpet magazine.

Russia and China Unite (Crimea)

China has announced to the world that it agrees with Russia’s invasion of Crimea in Ukraine.