The Middle East has been a key battleground for competing US and Russian interests since the old Cold war, with the region still serving as a major frontline in an ongoing global confrontation.
In recent years, however, there is a new driver behind the long-time rivals’ competing Middle East policies: an assertive Christian conservatism which is at the heart of both Russian and US power.
Observers say the Kremlin has used the Orthodox church to project its own power across the region, while the Russian church has given its blessing to Russian military intervention in Syria and elsewhere.
President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church’s (ROC) relations have never been stronger, with the church blessing Moscow’s intervention in Syria as a “holy war” and at one point describing Putin’s election as a “miracle from God.”
In return, Putin has given support to the ROC’s conservative, “traditional family values” agenda, as it seeks to take on Western liberalism and ideas of universal human rights, concepts that Putin’s administration also views as anathema.