Russian Y2K: bad, not a disaster

Russian Y2K: bad, not a disaster

Missiles aren't a problem, but agencies face incompatibilities in infrastructure. Will Russian ballistic missiles fire themselves at the US on January 1, 2000?

Probably not, but there are plenty of other year 2000 concerns that Russia is wrestling with, including the viability of its banking system and connections among government agencies, acknowledges Andrey Nikolaevich Terekhov, a computer scientist acknowledged as a Y2K leader in Russia.

Besides advising the Government on year 2000 issues, he's a board member of Lanit Holding, a Moscow-based systems integrator recently certified as Russia's first year 2000 readiness centre.

In his first-ever interview with a Western journalist, Terekhov, 49, recently spoke with IDG's Thomas Hoffman.

IDG: Western analysts have speculated that Russia's early-warning radar systems are probably more susceptible to year 2000 glitches than its nuclear warheads.

Terekhov: I absolutely agree. General Yakov [who's in charge of strategic missile systems in Russia] has said that rockets and launch controls are [year 2000] ready.

But it doesn't mean that all of the interconnections are ready. They have only checked the embedded systems in the rockets.

What are the chief year 2000 concerns in Russia?

The main problem is not the rockets but the infrastructure.

There are so many networks in place [among Russian government agencies and companies in the private sector].

For example, one agency will have programs that work with day/month/year and another uses month/day/year. There could be troubles with the interfaces between them, even if the applications themselves are fixed.

Which organisations are furthest along with year 2000 preparations?

Some of them are very clever and advanced. The Russian railway has fixed almost all the problems with its ticketing systems.

The most advanced and most safe is the telecommunications sector.

How susceptible are private companies in Russia?

Gazprom [Russia's largest natural gas supplier] and other advanced companies are very auto-mated. It would be a mistake to think that they don't use modern networks.

How severely have Russia's economic problems cut into year 2000 funding?

Many of the state agencies, which I can't name, understand the problem and they understand our approach [to fixing the problem] and are ready, but many of them say, 'We have no money'. We have enough programmers; the only disadvantage is money.

Where will they get the money from?

It was announced that money for nonprofit ministries like defence, social and labour would be made available [by the central government]. And [despite Western opinion], there are successful companies in Russia. They pay huge taxes, so this is a help.

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