From “Why Russia Is Backing Syria,” Ruslan Pukhov, NYT:
“Many Russians believe that the collapse of the Assad government would be tantamount to the loss of Russia’s last client and ally in the Middle East and the final elimination of traces of former Soviet prowess there — illusory as those traces may be.
“Such attitudes are further buttressed by widespread pessimism about the eventual outcome of the Arab Spring, and the Syrian revolution in particular. Most Russian observers believe that Arab revolutions have completely destabilized the region and cleared the road to power for the Islamists. In Moscow, secular authoritarian governments are seen as the sole realistic alternative to Islamic dominance.
“The continuing struggles in Arab countries are seen as a battle by those who wear neckties against those who do not wear them. Russians have long suffered from terrorism and extremism at the hands of Islamists in the northern Caucasus, and they are therefore firmly on the side of those who wear neckties.
“To people in Moscow, Mr. Assad appears not so much as ‘a bad dictator’ but as a secular leader struggling with an uprising of Islamist barbarians.”
The Russians are backing Assad for the same reason we backed Mubarak for all those years. We both fear the Arab Street. The Russian have their bastards, and we have ours.
The Russians have never been fond of Islam. Under the Czars, the Russians viewed the Muslims in their empire as a threat to Christianity. Under the Communists, the Russians viewed the Muslims in their empire as a threat to atheism.