Russia’s Successful War at Sea

Ukrainian Maritime Guard are seen on the Sea of Azov off the coast of Mariupol, Ukraine on February 9, 2022
Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russia’s Successful War at Sea

Is the Black Sea blockade a preview of Bible prophecy?

Russia’s ground invasion of Ukraine did not go as planned. Not only did the lightning strike at Kyiv fail, Russian forces had to pull back and then reconcentrate in eastern Ukraine. But while most of the media coverage has been focused on the war on land, Russia has had outstanding success in a different dimension of the conflict: the war at sea.

“In the early days of the current war, Russia’s navy moved quickly to enact a blockade of the Ukrainian coast,” wrote Joshua Keating at Grid. “It closed off the Kerch Strait, which connects the smaller Sea of Azov to the Black Sea. The important Sea of Azov port cities of Berdyansk and Mariupol have since fallen to Russian forces. Some 20 Russian naval vessels including six submarines are also patrolling the southern coast.” The entire Black Sea strategy hinged on securing the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Establishing a land bridge solidified Russia’s presence in the sea.

“Further west, Russian warships and the forces now stationed on Snake Island are also enforcing a blockade on Odessa, Ukraine’s largest seaport,” Keating continued. “Ukrainian forces have been fighting to retake the now-iconic outcropping, hoping to prevent the Russians from setting up surface-to-air missile capabilities there.” Snake Island is essential to stopping merchant ships from reaching Ukraine.

Western powers are beginning to supply Ukraine with antiship missiles. The sinking of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, the Moskva, was a massive blow of prestige to Russia. While this forced Russian vessels to move further offshore, it did not deter the blockade.

The Russian Navy enjoys a technological and numerical superiority over the Ukrainian Navy. This massive advantage can be mainly credited to Barack Obama. “The Russian move to annex Crimea in 2014 was in part motivated by its desire to avoid any challenge to its naval base at Sevastopol,” wrote Lawrence Freedman at the New Statesman. “In the process of securing this base it also acquired three quarters of the Ukrainian Navy. At the start of this war in February, the Ukrainian Navy was still small, with only 5,000 sailors and consisting largely of patrol vessels. They were soon targeted by the Russians, and one, the Sloviansk, which had been gifted by the U.S. to Ukraine in 2018, was sunk in the first week of March.” The weakness of Obama toward Russian President Vladimir Putin enabled Russia to confiscate 75 percent of the Ukrainian fleet and provide the means to now completely blockade the country.

The Russian Navy efficiently divided the Black Sea into two. First, it closed the Kerch Strait, the narrow passage between Crimea and the east coast of the Black Sea, which made the Sea of Azov a “Russian lake” and greatly enabled the Russian subjugation of the land bridge. Secondly, the capture of Snake Island on the western side of the Black Sea gave the Russian Navy the means to effectively blockade Odessa, Ukraine’s main port city. Most incoming and outgoing goods move via Odessa. This blockade has strangled Ukraine’s economy and is starting to have an impact on the entire world.

“So long as the blockade continues, real problems are caused not only for Ukraine but for the rest of the world,” continued Freedman. “In 2022, Ukraine was predicted to provide around half of the world’s sunflower oil exports, 16 percent of corn exports, along with 18 percent of barley and 12 percent of wheat. The UN food agency reported on May 6 that nearly 25 million tonnes of grain are stuck in Ukraine.” The backlog of grain is causing issues for farmers who now lack storage space for the new harvest. If a solution is not found soon, millions of tons of grain will be lost.

Shipping through the Black Sea accounted for half of Ukraine’s total trade and 90 percent of its grain and sunflower oil exports. However, it is not just grain and food stuffs. Ukraine also produces 50 percent of the world’s supply of neon gas used to produce semiconductor chips that are used in basically everything technology. Due to several merchant ships either being attacked or hitting mines, insurance rates have gone so high it is impossible to operate in the Black Sea. It is also unclear if Russia would allow any merchant ships to land on shore. Currently around 80 merchant vessels have been stranded in Ukrainian ports due to the Russian blockade.

Simply switching to overland transport is not a timely solution. Grain is too bulky and too heavy to be airlifted, and driving via truck is slow and expensive. Even shipping by rail is proving to be cumbersome as Ukrainian railways are built with a Soviet-era thicker gauge of steel than European railways. Thus, the grain must be switched at the border every time.

Options to break the blockade range from nato providing escorts to merchant vessels or providing Ukraine with the capability to break the blockade itself. However, the major barrier has been Turkey’s control of the Dardanelles and Bosporus. “Early in the war, Turkey, which controls access to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean via the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, triggered a 1936 treaty known as the Montreux Convention, which obligates it to cut off access to the sea to naval ships during wartime,” continued Keating. “Controversially, Turkey is interpreting the convention as applying to all ships, including nato vessels, not just the belligerents in this war. However, the convention allows naval ships based in the sea, such as Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, to move about and return to their Black Sea bases. And many Russian vessels were already there anyway. So the Russian Navy effectively has free rein.” Although Turkey is a member of nato, it is increasingly hostile against America, and its control of the straits is aiding Russia.

Once again, control of the sea gates is proving decisive to maritime conflicts. Bible prophecy draws attention to sea gates as being essential to world power. The late Herbert W. Armstrong explained in The United States and Britain in Prophecy that God promised to Israel that it would “possess the gates of its enemies” (Genesis 22:16-18; Ferrar Fenton). The modern descendants of Israel today are primarily the United States and British Commonwealth. Mr. Armstrong wrote:

[T]he “gates” of enemy nations are the strategic sea gates of entrance to or exit from these nations. Although all wealth comes from the ground, prosperity and affluence on a national scale always have come also by industry and commerce. And commerce between nations has been transacted almost altogether by the sea-lanes of the world—by ships, and, within a continent, by railroads.

Britain and America came to possession of the most important sea gates, including the Panama Canal, Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Singapore, Hong Kong, amongst many others. Yet neither Britain nor America have ever really controlled the Dardanelles or Bosporus. Ever since the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, these vital passages have been controlled by the Turkish people. Mr. Armstrong identified the biblical identity of the Turkish people in The United States and Britain in Prophecy, writing:

The sparse records of history, with other proofs, show that many of the descendants of Esau became known as Turks. Therefore we must remember that prophecies pertaining to the latter days referring to Edom, or Esau, refer generally to the Turkish nation.

In Isaac’s dying prophecy, he foretold that Esau’s descendants would come to a time when they should have dominion, and then break the yoke of the Israelites from off their necks. That has happened. The children of Israel, through sin, were driven out of the Promised Land that belonged with the birthright. The Turks came to power and dominion and for many centuries possessed that land. Those descendants, the Turkish people, occupied Palestine 400 years before Britain took it in 1917. Esau’s descendants always have lusted for that land, central promise of the birthright! The Turks have truly lived by the sword!

America, Britain and Turkey are descendants of the patriarch Abraham, and they have warred against each other over many centuries, with brief periods of peace. Central to many of these conflicts has been the control of the Dardanelles. Turkey was allied with Britain against Russia during the Crimean War. Sixty years later, Britain was allied with Russia against Turkey during World War i. The bloody Dardanelles invasion aimed to knock Turkey out of the war and open the Black Sea to supplies for the czar’s Russia. After victory in 1918, Britain exerted a certain amount of influence over the Dardanelles.

Psalms 83 indicates that in the near future, Turkey will join in an alliance with a German-led Europe against America, Britain and the Jewish state of Israel. Turkey has been increasingly hostile to America. We can expect Turkey to temporarily side with Russia over nato as long as Germany is in a secret alliance with Russia. Eventually Russia and Germany will be in conflict with one another, but for now, Turkey’s control to the entrance of the Black Sea precisely reflects what Bible prophecy says about Black Sea geopolitics.

Russia’s successful blockade in the Black Sea, and Turkey’s decisive control over the Bosporus strait, is a small preview of what Bible prophecy says will happen on a global scale in the near future. The Trumpet closely follows how America and Britain have lost control of nearly all of the vital sea gates because we have lost the “pride in our power” (Leviticus 26:19). These gates, instead, would be controlled by our enemies, especially China and Germany.

The loss of these sea gates is key to the fulfillment of the prophecies in Ezekiel 3 and 4, which outline what happens to end-time Israel during the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22). Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in Ezekiel—The End-Time Prophet: “In the past, we believed the Great Tribulation would begin when America, Britain and Judah were attacked militarily. Yet Ezekiel 4 describes the Tribulation as actually beginning with an economic siege against these nations. One third of the people inside that siege against Israel will die! That equates to more than 100 million people in the U.S., and more that 21 million in Britain, plus some of the Commonwealth nations.” This siege is a blockade of trade by enemy powers on a worldwide scale, much like what is occurring in the Black Sea.

We are living right now through a time period of disrupted supply chains caused by covid lockdowns, natural disasters and government policies. This is already causing widespread food shortages. How much worse will it be when foreign militaries deliberately besiege our nations? Mr. Flurry continues:

For many years, Mr. Armstrong said the siege prophesied in verse 52 symbolized America’s economy being battered by foreign competition. “And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates ….” The target here has to be the nations of Israel—not Judah. Who has those gates? America and Britain have or had the gates, and we are going to be besieged in all of them. We have already virtually lost control of all of them. This is a prophecy for this end time.

The Holy Roman Empire, along with the kings of the east (the Asian nations), will cause economic problems and bring on destruction in many ways “until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee” (verse 52). The real pressure is coming from without. “In all thy gates” refers to a trade war.

This international blockade will cause unimaginable suffering in America and the British Commonwealth as our societies implode. The Russian blockade in the Black Sea is only a small preview of what will be happening soon against the nations of Israel. The instability and violence spreading around the world will eventually come to America and Britain. God is revealing these prophecies as a warning to urge you to take action before the Great Tribulation. You can avoid these terrible curses, but it all starts with turning to God.

To learn more about these urgent prophecies, please read Ezekiel—The End-Time Prophet.