MOSCOW -- One is a sharp-tongued army colonel who says that if he were Soviet president, he would show President Bush )) who's boss by putting Soviet strategic weapons on alert.
A second comrade belongs to a shady reactionary group that tried to overthrow the democratically elected government in the Baltic republic of Latvia. A third is committed to fighting for the rights of ethnic Russians in places where they are a minority and branded "Soviet occupiers."
These are not the members of a freakish political cult, but duly elected lawmakers and leaders of Soyuz, or "Union," the Soviet Parliament's right-wing faction, which is steadily gaining power and influence inside the Kremlin.
"We are very strong," Soyuz Chairman Yuri V. Blokhin, an ethnic Russian from Moldova, declared in an interview. "If [President Mikhail S.] Gorbachev wants to be successful, he better be with us."
A former bureaucrat from the state planning agency who now battles "discrimination" against Russians by new nationalist leaders in Moldova and other rebel Soviet republics, Blokhin says that Soyuz simply wants to protect "equal rights" and prevent the breakup of the Soviet Union.
But at least one of Soyuz's political opponents says that the group has been plotting to remove all liberals from top posts in the government in order to force the country into a period of authoritarian rule.
Blokhin and others in Soyuz prefer having a controlled Gorbachev as president to an uncontrolled Boris N. Yeltsin, the Russian republic president who last week called for Gorbachev's resignation.
They deeply despise Yeltsin for what they see as his personal ambition and efforts to weaken Gorbachev only in order to strengthen himself. "Yeltsin is deeply mistaken," Blokhin says. "He will not get strong republics if there's no strong union."
However, one Soyuz leader, Victor Alksnis, openly declares that he wants a "national salvation committee" to take over the country in place of Gorbachev and the democratically elected parliaments.
Such a committee will use the army and KGB spying and security apparatus, he added, to bring order to the Soviet Union and revive its economy.