Although Russia’s dominance in energy market has given it substantial leverage over Europe, the European Union has decided to ban all purchase of Russian oil by the end of this year and has committed to reduce gas imports from Russia by two-thirds within a year. The question still remains whether the European Union can achieve these reductions by finding replacement sources, or whether they will be forced into a humiliating climbdown which would underline Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Reductions of gas supplies have significant implications for the European economy, but fundamentally it is still less vital to life than food.
Ukraine and Russia combined produce 30% of the world’s supply of wheat, and due to their relatively small populations are able to export a significant percentage of it. In 2020 Russia exported more wheat than any other country in the would, selling a staggering over $10 billion, while Ukraine exported another $5 billion worth. If Russia were able to take over Ukraine, Putin would be in control of around a third of all wheat exports around the world, more than the next two exporters (Canada and the United States) put together.
To make matters worse in India, the world’s second largest wheat producer, a combined drought and heatwave (India had it’s warmest March in 122 years), damaged crops causing cuts in India’s harvest forecast. India has imposed a complete ban on wheat exports to ensure supply for its own people.
The world’s largest wheat producer is China, which has strengthened ties with Russia over recent months and years.
The thought of Putin having this much control over the world’s food supply makes the old fears of Putin controlling the worlds gas supply seem minor in comparison!
However, at the moment it seems unlikely that Russia will be able to completely take over Ukraine, but the truth is that it doesn’t need to. Russia controls almost all of the Ukrainian coast line, with Ukraine only holding on to one remaining port: Odessa. Much of the Black Sea has been mined, and Russia is blockading Ukraine from the Sea. Shipping companies are already struggling to get shipping insurance to service Odessa, making shipping the grain out of Ukraine look increasingly difficult. Hauling the wheat out of Ukraine by road and rail in meaningful quantities is believed to be simply not practical.
Ukraine’s grain silos still have significant quantities of wheat stored in them from last year’s harvests, meaning that when this year’s harvest begins in just four weeks time, there may not be enough space to store it and some may end up rotting in the fields.
In a phone call today between Vladimir Putin and the French and German leaders, Putin offered to discuss ways to make ways for Ukrainian wheat suppliers to be exported from the country, but only on the condition that the West lift all sanctions that have been placed on Russia since the beginning of the war. He also added that continuing arms supplies to Ukraine could further “destabilize” the supply chain of wheat.
Earlier this week images from satellites belonging to Maxar Technologies showed what seemed to be Russian ships being filled with Ukrainian wheat and transported out of the country. The Ukrainian government claim that as much as 400,000 tones of wheat have been stolen and transported out of occupied areas of Ukraine since February.
Putin seems to have extended his grip on the worlds energy market to include a grip on the world’s food supply. The world may be able to reduce their dependence on Russia’s gas and oil, but can they reduce their need for food?
But how does this relate to the prophecy and the Bible?
In Ezekiel 38, Russia is the head of a confederacy of nations that include Europe. Russia is described as being a “guard” to these European nations. This word for guard is often used of a jailor guarding a prisoner. These nations are condemned by others such as Britain and the United States and members of the Commonwealth.
Today we see most of Europe united against Russia, and so this is something we expect to see change. Perhaps the energy and food markets are what will bring this change of position in Europe, only time will tell.
In the Olivet prophecy in Matthew 24, the Lord Jesus Christ is primarily talking of AD70, but we know from Reverlation 1:7 that it also refers to the future coming of Christ. And the prophecy states:
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
And the question we must ask ourselves is whether we are ready these things, whether we would endure such trials as our brethren did in the 1st Century, and whether we are ready for that time when all tribes of the earth mourn, when they see the coming of the son of man in the clouds of heaven with power and with great glory (v30).
And so our hope and our prayer is for the time of that great sound of the trumpet, when the elect shall be gathered to meet with the Lord for the establishment of the kingdom.
This has been Paul Barnes joining you for this weeks Bible in the News.