Mikhail Gorbachev and political rival Boris Yeltsin clashed Tuesday over a proposed treaty binding the 15 Soviet republics, and emerged with a compromise that Yeltsin called ``a victory for common sense.'
Gorbachev's Communist Party allies in the Russian republic's Congress of Peoples' Deputies tried to persuade the body to vote on a new union treaty that Gorbachev is pushing to arrest the disintegration of central authority.The issue boils down to a contest between central authorities, led by Gorbachev, and authorities in each of the republics that are arrayed behind Yeltsin.
The Russian Congress is highly sympathetic to Gorbachev. He wanted it to approve the union treaty in order to pressure Yeltsin to sign the pact on behalf of the Russian Federation, the largest Soviet republic.
``There will be no (Soviet) Union without Russia, nor will Russia be able to exist without the union (treaty),' Gorbachev told reporters during a break.
``We've got to pass it in one or two months, or it will mean the breakup of the union.'
Six republics - the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - already have said they will not sign the treaty pact.
The Soviet president did not speak during Tuesday's session, but smiled broadly from an isolated balcony in the Grand Kremlin Palace as his allies engaged in a boisterous floor fight.
Yeltsin, who quit the Communist Party last July after being elected president of the Russian Federation, hammered out a compromise under which the Congress would debate the union treaty, but not vote on it.
Congress voted 696-199 to allow an ``exchange of opinions' on the issue.
Yeltsin wants his Russians to vote first on a new constitution declaring the autonomy of the republic before any republic approves the treaty.
``It wasn't a victory for anybody. It was a victory for common sense,' Yeltsin told a reporter.
But Yeltsin's supporters were seething at what they viewed as a double cross by Communist deputies, who agreed Monday not to put the union treaty on the agenda.
They feared that the Russian Congress, having agreed to discuss the treaty, might vote to pass a resolution endorsing it, and so prejudice the issue before the voters.
Russian reformers argued the public should get a chance to fully discuss the proposed treaty, published three days earlier, before lawmakers vote on it.
Under the treaty, republics would control most areas except defense and the monetary system. The central government and the republics would share responsibility for economic development, transportation, energy and the space program.