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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Prepares for Millennium Bug

Even as Russia woke up late to the threats posed by the millennium bug, the United States joined in Thursday to express concern over the vulnerability of the Russian defense system, which is heavily reliant on computers.

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre said that cash-strapped Russia's fragile defense systems needed immediate attention to alleviate a "nightmare" military scenario, Reuters reported.

Computer networks across the world are expected to freeze when the clocks strike midnight on the eve of the year 2000 because of a technical glitch.

Russian and U.S. defense systems rely on bug-vulnerable computers to correlate data from satellites and radars, and to monitor threats by foreign missiles and aircraft.

Hamre said Defense Secretary William Cohen had ordered plans for sharing early warning information between the two countries so "we don't enter into a nightmare condition where everybody is all of a sudden uncertain, and the screens go blank."

Experts here said while Russia may be able to escape disaster like the meltdown of a nuclear reactor, they were doubtful that Russia could successfully address all its glitches in the next year and a half.

In the next three months, the Russian government will write a plan of action against the bug. The State Committee on Communication and Information will then print and distribute guides to regional and state executive bodies on how to deal with the problem. In the fourth quarter of 1998, the committee will submit a report on the extent to which the state-run computer services are prepared to deal with the bug.

Russia's failure to successfully reprogram all the computers by deadline could erase all data and tax records and completely shut off telecommunications systems, experts said.

They, however, welcomed the Russian government's resolution to prepare themselves for the bug threat, which, they said, was a little late.

"Without a complete analysis and risk assessment, there is no way of knowing what will happen in the year 2000," said Scott Pielsticker, global accounts director at LVS/Price Waterhouse Business Solutions, a Moscow-based systems integrator.

While Western countries have for years been investigating heavily into finding a solution to the computer glitch, Russia has remained blissfully ignorant of the feared apocalypse to come.

In some ways, Russia is less at risk. Up until a few years ago, Russians used primarily an abacus and a three-ringed, paper-filled binder to do calculations and keep records. Russia also has a wealth of highly qualified computer programmers that can attack the problem full force.

The Gartner Group, a computer consulting firm working in Moscow, estimates the world will spend a total of $600 billion by 2000 in dealing with the problem. Russia, at this point, should only have to spend $100 million of that.

The private sector -- mainly large businesses and banks -- are better equipped, said Alexander Myasnikov of Gartner. But smaller companies are bound to experience more difficulties.

But Russia's entry into the millennium will be much more sobering. "With the attention the government is giving now, they have time. They will be lucky if they can alleviate disaster," he said.