Russia has been the world’s largest wheat exporter for the past two years, as it was in the years prior to 1914—before the Soviets wrecked Russian agriculture. This has current naval relevance because sea power is about the reality that wheat and other bulk goods travel most efficiently by sea. Food has become Russia’s second most important export, behind oil but ahead of arms. Today, as in 1914, Russian wheat reaches the world primarily through the Black Sea ports, which means through the Turkish Straits at the mouth of the Black Sea.
We often think of sea power in terms of strikes against land targets, but historically what has mattered has been the protection or disruption of trade, especially the flow of important commodities. The most recent war against trade was the 1980–88 tanker war between Iran and Iraq. The Chinese government has justified the buildup of the People’s Liberation Army Navy to the Chinese people on the basis of the country’s dependence on seaborne importation of bulk goods, largely oil and food.