Russia, U.S. To Discuss Y2k Missile Fears : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


WASHINGTON  Russia has agreed to resume talks on a proposed joint center in the United States aimed at dodging any missile miscues caused by the 2000 computer glitch, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The talks on the temporary "early warning'' center are to take place in Moscow on Sept. 13 during a visit to Russia by Defense Secretary William Cohen, the officials said.

Don Meyer, spokesman for the special Senate panel on the 2000 technology problem, said they were expected "to yield an agreement that will bring the Russians back into the fold'' on the center, already being set up in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Moscow froze contacts on, among other things, Y2K  coding glitches that could boggle computers at year-end  in late March over U.S.-led NATO bombing of Serbia, a Russian ally.

Cohen will meet his Russian counterpart Igor Sergeyev, to discuss Y2K, nuclear weapons treaties and U.S. wishes to modify the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Russian officials said Monday.

The Pentagon has not yet formally announced the trip and did not respond to a request for on-the-record comment. Cohen is to spend two days in Moscow, a U.S. military officer said.

Air Force Major Perry Nouis, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs, said, "Sept. 13 is supposed to be decision day'' on Russian participation in the so-called Center for Y2K Strategic Stability.

U.S. officials are eager to get Moscow on board for fear that Y2K-related glitches could shut down or confuse Russia's own early warning system and somehow spark a preemptive Russian missile launch.

Russia and the United States, each with about 2,500 nuclear-armed missiles poised for immediate firing, are alone among world powers able to trigger a nuclear holocaust on very short notice.

John Koskinen, President Clinton's chief Y2K advisor, said Sunday that the United States was discussing with Russia "the status of their early warning system.''

"If it goes down and they 'blind' in effect, then the level of anxiety could increase, so we're trying to make sure that doesn't happen,'' he said in an interview on CNN.

Russia's economic woes, Koskinen added, were a major obstacle to completing Y2K preparations, and "we think they're going to have more difficulties'' than China.

The joint center, at Peterson Air Force Base, would seat a handful of U.S. and Russian officers side-by-side for a few days during the date switch to monitor blips on screens fed by U.S. satellites and ground sensors.

The officers would be in direct touch with their so-called national command authorities  those with fingers on the nuclear button  in both countries.

The missile-launch data would flow to them directly from the NORAD combat operations center burrowed into nearby Cheyenne Mountain.

Senators Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican who heads the Senate Y2K panel, and Vice Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, had joined the Pentagon in nudging Russia to sign on to the joint center.

In a July 14 letter to then Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, they urged Moscow to look at practical collaborative efforts necessary to prevent Y2K-related disruptions.

Assuming the Russians eventually join, the original plan was to begin specialized training on Dec. 1 for the future staffers. The center would be fully operational for a week or so starting Dec. 27.

-- Stan Faryna (, September 02, 1999

Moderation questions? read the FAQ