So why is Russia digging in so hard against UN action in Syria? The New York Times' Ellen Barry provides an interesting look at one often overlooked factor: the powerful Russian Orthodox Church. Church leaders oppose action against Bashar al-Assad because they want to protect the nation's Christians, who make up 10% of the population. Those Christians are generally reluctant to join in the uprising against Assad because it is made up of mostly Sunni Muslims, and they fear they those same Muslims will eventually turn against them once Assad is out of power.
The phrase "Islamophobia" is fairly common, but the story talks about how this kind of "Christianophobia" plays a big, complicated role in Russia's geopolitics and its reaction to the Arab Spring in general. In his re-election campaign, for example, Vladmir Putin promised the church he would protect Christian minorities abroad. “So it will be,” he said at the time. “There is no doubt at all.” Click for the full story.