Back in April Vladimir Bulgak, the former Deputy Prime Minister and chairperson of the government commission for Y2K, announced that the Defense Ministry “had practically solved” the Y2K problem. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and officials of the Defense Ministry in charge of this problem also made similar statements.
Meanwhile Western partners are concerned about condition of the Russian defense and its ability to adequately cope with the Y2K problem. For example, General of Air Force John Gordon, the Deputy CIA Director, stated at the hearing of the problem conducted by the Senate committee for armed forces affairs in February 1999 that Russia was demonstrating a low level of comprehension of the danger of the Y2K problem. Gordon announced, “At present we do not foresee a threat of unauthorized or accidental launch of ballistic missiles by any country because of the Y2K problem.” However, added Gordon, irregular thermal and electric energy supply in the middle of winter might result “in serious humanitarian consequences” in such countries like Russia and Ukraine. Moreover, explained Gordon, on the local level problems might arise in the temperature and humidity sensors of the missile systems. Such problems in the early warning systems might finally result in a wrong reading of the information and appearance of various non-standard situations, stressed Gordon.
Issue No. 14 of Aviation Week & Space Technology (October 04, 1999) also speaks about the possible problems of computer failures. The magazine notes that Russia is really facing a possibility of potentially serious failures of its computer networks which might ruin the work of nuclear security and early warning systems.
The Russian-American “hotline” of communication still remains vulnerable, as well as the Russian airports, system of aerial traffic management, nuclear power stations, electric mains, and telecommunications.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 concern of the world community about the problems of security of the largest nuclear arsenal of the world has been growing. Nonetheless, the Pentagon says that computer failures because of the Y2K problem in the systems servicing nuclear weapons, command centers, and early warning system “are unlikely. “
Moreover, Edward Warner, the assistant to the US Secretary of Defense for strategy and threat reduction, announced in early October at a meeting of special Senate committee for the problems of technologies of 2000 that “there are sufficient measures of precaution for protection from consequences of such failures.”
We need to add that Colonel General Igor Valynkin, the director of the 12th main department of the Defense Ministry in charge of nuclear weapons safety, frequently released statements about security of Russian nuclear missile assets.
Meanwhile Western mass media point out that the Pentagon takes the steps aimed at meeting of urgent Russia’s requests for equipment required for strengthening and maintenance of nuclear security and nuclear materials storage facilities, but the temporal factors still remain important in this sphere, because Moscow, as Western experts say, is lagging behind the schedule, and does not provide sufficient financing of work on solving of the Y2K problem.
We can hardly agree with these statements, knowing the information of Russian officials. In May Georgy Oleinik, the director of the main department of military budget and financing, announced that assignments for the Y2K problem and for arming and development of the Strategic Missile Forces are made regularly. Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, the director of the 4th Central Scientific-Research Institute of the Defense Ministry, also announced about the readiness of Russian computers to work after the New Year. It was also added that the Y2K problem does not exist at all for the automated systems of strategic nuclear forces combat management, because they do not function in real time and do not have any calendar dates. Computer assets of the automated systems of strategic nuclear forces combat management, systems of control of orbital satellite clusters and early warning systems, have been upgraded, on which about 85 million rubles of budget assignments were spent.
Answering the question whether hackers could break into the computer systems of the Defense Ministry, Dvorkin said that such a scenario is absolutely ruled out, because all army combat management systems are isolated and have no external connections.
This way or the other, Russian specialists accepted the American proposals. The Defense Ministry is accomplishing the training of specialists for joint combat duty in the Headquarters of the US Space Command, reported the Main Staff of the Strategic Missile Forces.
According to the Strategic Missile Forces, 18 specialists of the Missile Space Defense Forces will arrive in Peterson airbase (Colorado) on December 23. Together with their American colleagues they will monitor missile launches, unauthorized launches of ballistic missiles, and prevent accidental computer failures possible because of the Y2K problems. The Main Staff of the Strategic Missile Forces noted that after a few days of training Russian specialists together with American ones would sit behind the control panels on December 27. They will be on duty 24 hours a day in shifts within three weeks inside a reliable defended object. The US and Russia achieved this agreement in September.
According to experts, the officers on duty will monitor every launch of a missile with a range of over 500 kilometers. The service information will be provided by the operational center of the NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) located in the suburbs of Colorado Springs.
The agreement also stipulates that both parties will analyze in cooperation the information necessary for adequate decision making (place and time of a launch, quantity of detected missiles, their trajectories, types, predicted targets and time of the targets destruction). The group of Russian specialists will comprise operational officers, analysts, and experts for verification of authenticity of the received information.
Thus, within less than a month we will learn how Russia has really solved the Y2K problem. Russian leaders say that discussion of this topic has been accomplished, but Western partners express some apprehensions. Time will tell how this happens to be in reality.