More than six months after negotiations began, US and Russian Federation officials have signed a statement supporting the creation of a joint warning centre that would help avoid an accidental launch of nuclear weapons that could result from system malfunctions caused by Year 2000-related computer problems.
US Defence Secretary William Cohen and Russian Federation Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev signed the agreement in Moscow, after extensive delays caused by increasing tensions over the war in Yugoslavia.
The new Centre for Year 2000 Strategic Stability will be located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and will be staffed by Russian and US military representatives during the Year 2000 transition period from late December 1999 through mid-January 2000. Military officers from both countries will sit side by side and exchange information related to Year 2000 in an effort to avoid misperceptions surrounding the status of each other's nuclear forces. The center also will be linked via voice communications networks to other command centers in the United States and Russia.
The creation of the joint warning center stems from concerns that Year 2000 failures could cause some nuclear command and control systems to crash, which could be interpreted as the sign of an impending first strike. However, Defense Department officials and officials from the US Strategic Command have assessed the likelihood of an accidental launch as "extremely remote," adding that nuclear missiles cannot be launched by a computer alone.