The Russian Triad, made up of Vladimir Putin’s regime, the Russian mafia oligarchy and the Russian Orthodox Church, has not only taken control of nearly every element of Russian society, it has infiltrated American economic and political systems. The triad illicitly exploits America’s vulnerable political and economic systems while it simultaneously slams the door on American religious traditions to freely share their messages with the Russian people.

Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia adopted a set of reforms to establish its version of a constitutional democracy and capitalism. Religious freedom was an integral part of the foundation of freedom for the new Russia. Since Putin’s rise to power, religious and other freedoms adopted during the reforms have been co-opted by the Triad that now controls the Russian political, economic and religious orders.

Russian mafia oligarchs were able to acquire state owned economic assets for 40 cents on the dollar — sold off to help develop a new capitalistic economic system. With their new found wealth, the mafia oligarchs gained control of the Russian economic and political orders. Upon Putin’s election, they intended to control him and his administration, too. Putin had something else in mind. He quickly outmatched even the most ruthless oligarchs.

When Putin arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the most wealthy and powerful oligarch, putting him in a cage before handpicked judges who summarily convicted him of crimes against the state, the other oligarchs approached Putin to ask what they needed to do to stay out of the cage. Putin made it clear they were required to give him 50 percent of their profits from both illicit and licit gains, making Putin the richest man in the world by a factor of four. In addition, the oligarchs were required to financially and operationally support Putin’s regime, especially his espionage activities.

In return for these demands and their loyalty, Putin’s government gave the oligarchs a free hand. They would not be arrested for assassinations, human trafficking, drug distribution, gambling, art theft and, in particular, money laundering, among other illicit activities. In essence, Putin is not only the president of Russia, he is the godfather over the Russian mafia oligarchy. Operatives from his regime work hand-in-hand with operatives from his mafia.

Once Putin took control of both the government and the mafia oligarchy, he turned his attention to the Russian Orthodox Church. As a former operative of the KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate, assigned to spy on religious activities throughout the Soviet Union, Putin understood the power in building an alliance with the church’s Patriarch Krill. Out of this alliance, all lands confiscated during Soviet era were returned to the church. There are now 25,000 churches under construction or repair by Putin’s directed contributions made by the mafia oligarchy. The church received legal authority to review all Duma legislation prior to its passage. In effect, the Russian Orthodox Church is now the guardian over all religious and cultural standards in Russian society.

In exchange for these favors, the church provides public support for Putin. For example, Patriarch Krill declared Putin’s rule a “miracle of God.” He has instructed his priests to help advance Russian exceptionalism that Putin is promulgating to give the Russians a sense of pride and patriotism. This propaganda push has been at the core of Putin’s popularity and autocratic power.

While the Russian Triad is openly banning American religions from proselyting in Russia to advantage its Orthodox Church, it is clandestinely manipulating the American political and economic systems to protect its flourishing money laundering operations. If more Americans do not wake up to the reality of the Russian risk to our political and economic systems, we may lose our freedoms along with our democracy. Who knows, one day we might even make the monumental mistake of electing a president previously suborned by the Russian Triad.

Stuart Reid is a former member of the Salt Lake City Council and of the Utah state Senate.