Russia’s ground invasion of Ukraine did not go as planned. Its lightning strike against the capital, Kyiv, fizzled. Its forces faced unexpectedly strong resistance in other cities and across the countryside and have paid dearly in losses of troops and equipment for any territorial gains.
Most of the media coverage has focused on the war on land and Russia’s struggles there. You’ve probably heard less about the other dimension of the conflict: the war at sea.
This maritime struggle is strangling a nation and affecting the world beyond. It vividly illustrates how major Bible prophecies will soon be fulfilled.
Black Sea Blockade
The Russian Navy enjoys significant technological and numerical superiority over the Ukrainian Navy. This massive advantage traces back several years—to before Russia took over the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. In fact, as Lawrence Freedman wrote in the New Statesman, “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. In the process of securing this base, it also acquired three quarters of the Ukrainian Navy” (May 19). This gave Russia even greater naval superiority. And sooner or later, naval superiority almost always means military supremacy.
When Russia started its invasion of Ukraine in February of this year, it took immediate advantage of this naval disparity. “[T]he Ukrainian Navy was still small, with only 5,000 sailors and consisting largely of patrol vessels,” Freedman continued. “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 Russian Navy swiftly blockaded the entire Ukrainian coast and effectively divided the Black Sea into two. First, it closed the Kerch Strait, making the Sea of Azov a “Russian lake” and providing control over the land bridge from Crimea to Russia. Second, the capture of Snake Island in the western Black Sea gave the Russian Navy the means to effectively blockade Odessa, Ukraine’s main port city.
Western nations supplied Ukraine with anti-ship missiles, and Ukraine was able to sink the Moskva, flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. This hurt Russian prestige and forced Russian vessels further offshore, but it did not break Russia’s blockade or cripple Russia’s suffocating advantage. It patrols the coast with six submarines and several other naval vessels.
Shipping through the Black Sea has accounted for half of Ukraine’s total trade and 90 percent of its grain and sunflower oil exports, which are badly needed elsewhere, especially in Middle Eastern nations. Its significant exports of sunflower oil, corn, barley, wheat and other goods are stuck. Ukrainian farmers who aren’t fighting and whose farms have not been destroyed have harvests coming, but they have no way to ship or store them. Millions of tons of grain could be lost.
Ukraine also produces about half of the world’s neon gas, which is used to produce semiconductor chips—and semiconductor chips are required for basically every kind of computer technology. Since February, several merchant ships have been attacked or struck mines, making insurance rates impossibly high. Fears of being intercepted, seized or sunk have stranded about 80 merchant vessels on the Odessa side of the Russian blockade, unable to reach the world’s ports.
With Russian warships off of Odessa, Ukraine cannot ship or receive most of the materials and goods it needs to survive. Unless something changes, the Ukrainian economy will be strangled to death. Control of the sea could prove decisive in the Ukraine conflict.
Virtually every nation on Earth relies heavily on trade moving freely across the oceans. In fact, 90 percent of world trade is transported over water. And those seaways go through strategic sea gates: capes, straits, islands, canals and other passages. The situation in the Black Sea and Ukraine is the exact situation that nations across the world could rapidly descend into if the world economy’s circulatory system were blocked.
The Importance of Sea Gates
Bible prophecy recorded long before the invention of submarines and aircraft carriers identified sea power as essential to national strength. The late Herbert W. Armstrong explained in The United States and Britain in Prophecy how God promised that the descendants of Abraham would become great nations, stating, “[T]hy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” (Genesis 22:16-18). The modern descendants of Israel today are primarily the United States and the 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” (The United States and Britain in Prophecy).
Britain and America came to possess every important sea gate in the world, including the Panama Canal, Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Singapore and Hong Kong. British and American power depended on possession of these vital gates. The British Empire began to expand when it controlled Gibraltar (1704) and flourished after building the Suez Canal (1869). It was the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 that made America a world power. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “World War ii hinged on these ‘gates’” (ibid). The next world war, what the Bible calls the Great Tribulation, will also hinge on these gates.
A vital sea passage that neither Britain nor America have ever completely controlled is the Dardanelles and Bosporus, collectively called the Turkish Straits. 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: “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” (ibid).
America, Britain and Turkey are descendants of the patriarch Abraham. They have warred against each other over many centuries; central to many of these conflicts has been the control of the Dardanelles. The Turkish Straits is one of the most important passages on Earth, connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and then to the Mediterranean and the rest of the world. Turkey’s control of this strategic sea gate will prove fatal to the end-time nations of Israel.
Turkey is a nato member, yet in the current conflict it is using its control of the straits to aid Russia. When Russia attacked Ukraine, Turkey invoked a 1936 treaty obligating it to cut off sea access to naval vessels in the event of war, thus keeping nato vessels out but leaving Russian vessels already in the Black Sea free to do as they pleased.
Psalm 83 indicates that Turkey will join an Arab alliance with a German-led Europe against America, Britain and the Jewish state of Israel. Turkey has been increasingly hostile to America under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey may temporarily side with Russia over nato as long as Germany is in a secret alliance with Russia. Eventually, Russia and Germany are prophesied to be in conflict with one another, but for now, Turkey’s control of passages into the Black Sea precisely reflects what Bible prophecy states about Black Sea geopolitics.
Russia’s successful blockade in the Black Sea and Turkey’s decisive control over the Dardanelles and Bosporus provide a small preview of what Bible prophecy says will happen soon on a global scale.
Prophesied International Blockade
The Bible prophesied that the United States and Britain would lose those vital sea gates, and this has been happening. Loss of these gates is key to the fulfillment of 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 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 than 21 million in Britain, plus some of the Commonwealth nations” (Ezekiel—The End-Time Prophet).
This global economic siege is undertaken by what Isaiah 23 calls “a mart of nations,” an economic alliance of European and Asian powers. This same “mart of nations” is taking control of virtually all major sea gates today.
In 1959, Communists took control of Cuba, making the island 100 miles off of Florida a potential vector for Russia or Europe to threaten American shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1999, the United States ceded control of the Panama Canal: The facilities at either end of the canal are now controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. China also has a commanding control over Singapore, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and the South China Sea, through which 21 percent of world trade passes. Its Belt and Road Initiative is a deliberate strategy to build billions of dollars of overland and oversea trade infrastructure, giving it not only the means of building an economic empire stretching from China to India to Africa to Europe but also the necessity of building and deploying a military to secure it.
In 1956, Britain lost control of the Suez Canal to Egypt. Whereas 4 percent of world trade passes through the Panama Canal, 12 percent passes through the Suez daily. The prophecy of Daniel 11:40-43 shows that Egypt will ally with Iran, “the king of the south.” Iran will also likely control the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb, through which passes 9 percent of the world’s seaborne oil.
Britain’s loss of the Suez was the beginning of the end of its empire. America’s loss of the Panama Canal was the beginning of the end of its superpower status.
What will happen if many or all of these strategic ports are closed to America and Britain? The Bible answers. Mr. Flurry writes, “For many years, Mr. Armstrong said the siege prophesied in [Deuteronomy 28:52] 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 …. The real pressure is coming from without. ‘In all thy gates’ refers to a trade war.”
During this trade war, food, oil, materials and products will be blockaded from the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and other related countries. Overseas manufacturing infrastructure and assets will become useless. Shortages will cause nationwide panic and violence at home, as well as crippling military shortfalls.
The mighty American fleet will be prevented from using the Panama Canal. Enemy forces operating from Cuba could blockade the crucial U.S. port of New Orleans. Like Odessa and every Ukrainian connected to it currently being economically strangled by Russia, American and British port cities and everyone connected to them will suffocate. The Israelite nations will be weakened and vulnerable to foreign invasion.
This international blockade will cause unimaginable suffering in America and the British Commonwealth as our societies implode. Hundreds of millions of people will perish. The instability and violence Ukrainians are experiencing will spread around the world, and throughout America and Britain.
The sudden rise of America and Britain to world power was foretold in Bible prophecy. The decline and collapse of these nations is also foretold. God is revealing these prophecies as a warning to urge the modern Israelites, to urge you, to take action.
There is only a short time left to take action. Mr. Armstrong wrote in The United States and Britain in Prophecy: “But if you—you now reading this, you as an individual—will be corrected, voluntarily, before God lets this indescribably horrendous chastening strike; if you come to real repentance, realizing how terribly wrong you have been; if you can see yourself as you really are—as a rebellious wrong, evil person; and if you can surrender to the loving, all-merciful, yet all-powerful God—and make it an unconditional surrender, coming to Almighty God through the living Jesus Christ as personal Savior—then no plague shall come near you! (Psalm 91:8-11), but you shall be accounted worthy to escape all these frightful things and to stand before Christ at His return (Luke 21:35-36).” You can escape the siege and be a part of the government, the Kingdom of God, that will end this world’s suffering and bring a world of peace.