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Why are we surprised to see this new holy Russia extend its protecting arm over the Christian-backed Ba'athist regime in Syria? Russian regimes have been staking a claim to guard that region's Christians for 250 years.

It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.

Philip Jenkins is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University.

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