Congress renews call for Y2K center

With more than 6,000 Russian nuclear weapons aimed at the United States and only 154 days left until the Year 2000, lawmakers yesterday urged Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin to renew efforts to form a joint nuclear Year 2000 early warning center.

In a letter to Stepashin, Sens. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Problem, and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), vice chairman of the committee, urged the prime minister to respond to the Defense Department's invitation to resume talks on the center. Russia pulled out of the talks to protest the U.S.-led air war against Yugoslavia.

"It is still our wish that key U.S. and Russian Y2K decision-makers can meet next month to examine the types of pragmatic collaborative Y2K efforts that would benefit both of our countries," the letter stated.

Efforts have been under way for months to install systems at the proposed site of the early warning center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The center would let U.S. and Russian military personnel share information on the status of nuclear weapons during the Year 2000 date change. The fear is that widespread Year 2000 failures could cause early warning systems to black out, leading military commanders to misinterpret the failures as a nuclear attack.

Only the U.S. side of the communications architecture has been put in place.

"On July 9, 1999, the DOD sent an invitation letter to the [Russian Ministry of Defense] to resume talks on this vitally important issue," the letter stated. "As of now, it is our understanding that Russia has not responded."

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