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 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 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 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. Ideology, he says, would not be important: "I'm not interested in all those 'isms'--communism, capitalism, et cetera.
"For the last five years, it has been graphically demonstrated that Gorbachev has no program of perestroika, " Alksnis said, referring to the label Gorbachev uses for his plans to remake society. "He has a program of destruction, but no program of construction.
"In 1985, Gorbachev was handed control of a country in a pre-crisis situation, now we are in a catastrophic situation . . . and Gorbachev is at fault," Alksnis charged. "Civil war is already going on in Azerbaijan and Georgia, and there's a cold civil war in the Baltics and Moldova."
The national salvation committee, he contended, could succeed where Gorbachev and the Communist Party have failed.
Alksnis, 40, a charismatic member of the Soviet Parliament who often stirs controversy in the halls of the Kremlin, acknowledged in an interview that he belongs to the All-Latvian Public Salvation Committee, whose failed bid at seizing power in that tiny Baltic republic in January triggered a clash in which five people were killed during an attack by Soviet interior troops on Latvia's Interior Ministry.
Alksnis is not the only Soyuz member who supports Draconian measures to prevent the breakup of the Soviet Union and safeguard its position as a superpower.
"Our goal is to preserve the Soviet Union and fight against those forces that are pulling our country apart--to fight against nationalism, separatism, Zionism, oppression of human rights and policy-makers who put nationalist values above general human values," Col. Nikolai S. Petrushenko, another high-profile member of the group, said. "Soyuz's tactics toward Gorbachev are to push him to resolute and tough measures with the aim of preserving the union."
To keep the Soviet Union intact, "I'm in favor of using the toughest measures, including the army," Petrushenko added in a recent interview.
The balding, hefty, 40-year-old colonel often takes the podium at the legislature to call for a more hawkish foreign policy as well.
"If I were to become Soviet president," Petrushenko said in ire, "I would not allow President Bush to talk to me the way he talks to the current Soviet president. Believe me, Bush would have to take me into consideration because I would put strategic forces on alert just to accomplish this aim."
Soyuz's calls for greater discipline inside the country and a firmer stance in foreign policy appeal to many.
Already more than 700 of the 2,250 members of the national Parliament have pledged their support of Soyuz, leaders say. Their opponents agree that the faction has become the largest group in the Parliament other than the Communist Party, whose members do not vote as a bloc and belong to both the liberal and reactionary wings.