The Christian zeal behind Russia’s war in Syria

By Ishaan Tharoor

A video grab made on September 30, 2015, shows an image taken footage made available on the Russian
As the Russian military commenced airstrikes in Syria, another important national institution applauded the intervention.

On Wednesday, a statement from the Russian Orthodox Church praised the Russian war effort, describing the mission to fight the jihadists of the Islamic State as a “holy battle.”

“The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it,” said the head of the church’s public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, in a quote reported by Interfax news agency and translated by Agence France Presse.

Chaplin added: “This decision corresponds with international law, the mentality of our people and the special role that our country has always played in the Middle East.”

To be sure, strategists in the Kremlin are probably not donning the vestments of Crusaders right now. As my colleague Andrew Roth reported earlier this week, the airstrikes are likely an opportunistic gamble by Russian President Vladimir Putin — a move rooted more in cynicism than any religious conviction. And senior Muslim clerics in Russia have also endorsed Moscow’s new war.
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