Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 43

Russia’s Defense Ministry offered new assurances yesterday that it has a handle on the Y2K problem. General Vladimir Dvorkin, identified as director of the ministry’s Fourth Central Research Institute, told reporters that the so-called millennium bug does not pose a risk to most of the computers in Russia’s nuclear automated control systems because those computers do not employ calendar dates.

Dvorkin did admit, however, that the Y2K problem could cause problems with Russia’s missile attack warning system. But he said that the Defense Ministry had managed to determine which hardware or software systems had to be replaced or improved in this area. Meanwhile, he said, some thirty working groups have been established to deal with possible Y2K problems in Russia’s strategic forces overall. These groups have reportedly investigated 134 facilities, including command posts and the main control center. Of that number, Dvorkin said, it is believed that seventy-four facilities could face problems of one sort or another related to the millennium bug. According to Dvorkin, nearly US$4 million in funding will be needed to rectify the problems in this area (Russian news agencies, March 2).

Dvorkin’s remarks come only days after a U.S. Defense Department team spent several days in Moscow with its Russian counterparts discussing the Y2K problem. The leader of that team, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction Edward Warner, however, suggested in remarks to reporters on March 1 that the United States remains unsure of how much progress Russia has actually made in dealing with Y2K-related issues. Warner said that the Russian Defense Ministry appears now to be motivated to deal with the problem–a shift from its earlier casual attitude–and that its willingness to deal with experts from other nations has increased dramatically. But he also said that during the recent trip to Moscow the Pentagon delegation had not gotten “enough detailed information to understand the status of where they are now.”

Indeed, Warner said that the U.S. delegation had not been given the opportunity to visit military facilities in Moscow to look at facility computers, despite some signals prior to their arrival that they would be allowed to do so. He also said that the Russian side had made no commitment to agree to a U.S. proposal under which Russian early warning launch specialists would be invited to a specially established, temporary facility near the U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs. Under the proposal, Russian and U.S. specialists would jointly man the facility from roughly mid-December of this year until mid-January of 2000. The facility near Colorado Springs would apparently serve as at least a short-term substitute for a joint center of a similar sort which earlier reports had said would be established in Russia. According to Warner, U.S. and Russian defense officials will take up this and other, related issues during a another round of consultations scheduled for the middle of this month (M2 Communications, March 1).

During their summit meeting last September, the Russian and U.S. presidents had agreed to move as quickly as possible to set up a system for sharing early warning data about long-range missile launches. The proposed joint centers, set up to ensure that Y2K problems do not lead to any distortions or misinterpretation of early warning missile data, would be one part of that effort.

A Russian government official, meanwhile, told reporters yesterday that resolving problems related to the millennium bug could cost the Russian government approximately US$1 billion. Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak, who heads a commission tasked with overseeing the government’s efforts to deal with the Y2K issue, said exact cost figures would be available later this month when all ministries submit their estimates for addressing the problem (Itar-Tass, March 2).