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1998-06-06 09:18:12


Soviet Threat if Screens Go Blank, Says Official



If y2k shuts down Soviet (or other) computer screens, will someone with access to "the button" regard this as an attack?

This possibility exists, a U.S. official informed the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 4.

This Reuters story appeared on C/NET (June 5).

* * * * * * * * *

WASHINGTON--The United States is drawing up plans to keep Russia and others from being spooked into millennium bug-related "nightmare" military scenarios, a top Pentagon official said yesterday.

In a stark warning about the Year 2000 computer glitch threat, Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre cited a need to calm Russian nuclear forces in particular if the bug caused their computers to crash, as many systems may fail worldwide.

He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that cash-strapped Russian forces were relying more and more on nuclear weapons "as a safeguard for their national security."

"And their early warning system is fragile," he said.

Such systems, heavily reliant on computers to mesh data from satellites, radar, and other sensors, are used by Russia and the United States to monitor impending threats such as missile launches and unidentified aircraft.

He said Defense Secretary William Cohen ordered plans drawn up for sharing early warning information so "we don't enter into a nightmare condition where everybody is all of a sudden uncertain, and their screens go blank."

"That would be a very worrisome environment for all of us," he said, adding the idea was to share data not only with Russia, America's old Cold War foe, but with other, unspecified nations.

A formal proposal was to be ready later this summer, he added. He said Asian countries and nations of the old Soviet bloc were lagging the most in rewriting old computer code to cope with the date switch.

Hamre said Russian forces lacked a program to deal with the Y2K problem--the inability of many computers to interpret correctly the century that dawns in 18 months. . . .

Although the Cold War has been over for years, the United States and Russia each still keep ready to deliver on short notice roughly 2,500 nuclear-tipped weapons on missiles, bombers, and submarines. . . .

Calling the Y2K glitch the electronic equivalent of El Niņe weather pattern, Hamre said: "This is going to have implications in the world and in American society we can't even comprehend."

"I will be first to say we're not going to be without some nasty surprises," he said.


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