Y2K: The Russians Are Crashing! The Russians Are Crashing!

TIME Digital: Russia is scrambling to get its missile systems ready for Y2K. The war in Yugoslavia isn't helping.

  • Share
  • Read Later
In Russia, the Y2K problem isn't about embedded chips in microwaves, it's about nuclear bombs. The specter of a Y2K-induced nuclear apocalypse is so terrifying, and real, that earlier this year Russia came to the U.S. and the IMF for help in controlling its arsenal through the turn of the millennium. The U.S. formed a delegation of technicians to send to Russia, but before work could begin the war in the Balkans heated up, and diplomatic relations cooled down to Cold War temperatures. Now all bets are off, and the clock is ticking...

The Russian missiles have safeguards preventing self-launch, regardless of how badly their computers crash, but the Russian military early warning system, which provides command and control information to the people with their fingers on the button, is extremely vulnerable to Y2K-related malfunction. In January, the Russians raised Western eyebrows when they threw up their hands and asked for technical assistance from the United States (and money from the IMF) to fix their Y2K-unready machines. Needless to say, the vision of the Russian military command staring at "cannot find file: strategic missile data" on their frozen computer screens while poised to launch warheads capable of destroying all life on earth was a big motivator for the U.S. Plans were hatched to send a delegation to Russia to discuss Y2K cooperation. MORE >>