Russia/U.S. military meet on Y2K weapons issues
February 22, 1999
From Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty
MOSCOW (CNN) -- This is the nightmare scenario: Midnight, December 31, 1999, computers in Russia's early-warning defense system, crippled by the so-called "Millennium Bug," sound an alarm of what it thinks is a nuclear attack.
Both the Russian and U.S. military say there's virtually no chance the Millennium Bug would cause Russia's nuclear missiles to launch by themselves. But its frayed early-warning system could be the Achilles heel of Russia's military, possibly creating false alarms.
Trying to head off any problems, U.S. and Russian military officials held their first official meeting in Moscow to coordinate Y2K planning.
The United States is proposing setting up a joint U.S./Russia early-warning center near the Russian capital. It would share data in the crucial period from late December 1999 into January of 2000.
Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense Ted Warner says the center would help to catch problems as soon as they occur.
"What we envision is basically Russian and American specialist officers sitting side by side and being able to observe the presentation of warning data as the transition occurs."
Warner says the United States still knows few details of how prepared or unprepared the Russian military is for the Y2K problem.
Other than admitting that there is a problem, Russia's top brass are not saying much.
"There truly is a problem and we're working on it and not only us," says Gen. Igor Valinkin of the Russian Defense Ministry. "Money is being allocated and the problem is beginning to be resolved and we will definitely solve it."
Overall, Russian military officials seem less concerned than their American counterparts. One reason, according to military analyst Pavel Felgenauer, is that Russia's computer network for early-warning and military command and control is very small. He says it is based on mainframe computers similar to those that were scrapped by the U.S. military 15 years ago.
"Really the Russian military believe the United States can offer Russia no real help, no real expertise to solve this problem, and basically the problem is very minor," Felgenauer said. He added that a three-star general told him Russia has 12 or 16 computers that should be "essentially updated, and that's all."
Russian and U.S. officials will meet again in March. With little more than 10 months to go until January 1, 2000, the Americans say Russia's Defense Ministry will be faced with a "demanding schedule" to be ready in time.
Federal Y2K czar defends upbeat outlook
DefenseLINK - Official Web Site of the U.S. Department of Defense
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