According to an investigation by the Center Against Religious Extremism, a group of evangelical leaders in the United States who hold fringe views about overthrowing the federal government have formed an unlikely alliance with the Kremlin — and they have powerful friends in the religious right.

Cutting against growing tensions between the United States and Russia, influential and politically well-connected, Tea Party-aligned American evangelical leaders – including one who has called for a “military takeover” – who hold dominionist or even theocratic political leanings and are tied to former high-level U.S. military and intelligence community members, have over the past decade allied with one of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s closest political allies, Vladimir Yakunin.

[…] Joyner’s call for a “military takeover” and “martial law” did not lead major religious right “family values” (and ostensibly patriotic) organizations such as the Family Research Council (FRC), the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), or the American Family Association (AFA) to ostracize Joyner or distance themselves from his Oak Initiative organization. Rather, these groups signed onto a coalition that opposes Weinstein’s MRFF (Military Religious Freedom Foundation) and whose membership includes the Oak Initiative, whose president Rick Joyner in late 2013 stated, amidst substantial critical media scrutiny, that he “will stand by” his apparent call for a military coup.

As author Bruce Wilson explains, there is much more going on here than harmless religious rhetoric. Militancy and armed insurrection are constant themes, and these people are completely serious about their sedition. Linked to the powerful organizations behind the National Prayer Breakfast and the billionaire-sponsored ‘The Gathering,’ Joyner and his confederates actively work to undermine the legitimacy of the United States government, spreading fringe conspiracy theories as gospel among their millions of believers.

The group of leaders named by Wilson all subscribe to a ‘Fourth-Generation warfare’ theory in which small, determined groups — such as the Bolsheviks, whom they openly admire — degrade the foundations of the state while positioning themselves to take power when things crumble. To that end, Vladimir Yakunin has been increasing his ties to

local and grassroots initiatives challenging federal authority such as the American militia movement and a new national organization of county sheriffs called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, whose members pledge to refuse to enforce laws they consider unconstitutional and whose founder declares, “the CSPOA will be the army to set our nation free”.

Head of CSPOA is Mormon former county sheriff Richard Mack, whose frequent appearances at Tea Party and John Birch Society events have during the presidency of Barack Obama helped fuel the resurgence of the militia movement. In the 1990s Mack was the chief lobbyist for Gun Owners of America – headed by militia movement theorist Larry Pratt. Closely associated with the Christian Reconstructionism movement, Pratt contributed a chapter to the 1990 Christian Reconstructionist anthology Tactics of Christian Resistance (another chapter of the book was contributed by Herbert Schlossberg, a featured speaker in 1997 at the elite multimillionaire and billionaire evangelical right funding confab known as The Gathering.)

As described in an important report from the Boston-based nonprofit Political Research Associates, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is part of a broader effort associated with the neo-Confederate linked Nullification movement to promote states’ rights and delegitimize the federal government.

None of this is actually surprising. Links between the homophobic American religious right and Russian anti-gay laws are well-known, while Moscow-based attempts to organize an international anti-gay movement with American religious right extremists have received attention for a while. Putin is in fact quite popular with conservatives for the ‘decisiveness’ of his dictatorship, and he blames American agents for the actions of every civil society organization in Russia. It makes perfect sense that he would use his friend as a cutout to form ties with Americans who, with continued electoral gridlock and a little luck, can one day fulfill his dream of shattering the United States to make the world safe for Russian hegemony.