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Russia: We're Ready For Y2K

Russian soldier at nuclear missile command center
CBS
When the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve, what will happen to Russia's nuclear missiles? Russia has been slow to correct its Y2K computer problems, but the military says there's nothing to worry about, CBS News Moscow Correspondent David Hawkins reports.

"We're confident there will be no danger when our systems make the transition into the year 2000," says Col. Alexander Somov of the Russian Defense Ministry.

And besides, experts say, the military's computers break down all the time, so if systems fail on January 1st, it will be business as usual.

Still, the U.S. government isn't taking any chances and has arranged with the Russians to post officers in each others' missile command centers to make sure there are no accidental launches.

The State Department is preparing for the worst, evacuating hundreds of U.S. embassy employees and their families.

"This is a crisis the exact properties of which we are not able to predict," claims U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering.

Foreigners may be heading for the exits before the lights go out, but most Russians are looking forward to New Year's Eve, the country's most festive holiday, with traditional stoicism.

Blackouts, food shortages, and dead phone lines are part of everyday life here.

And many Russians have never seen a computer. Outside major cities, even in villages just an hour from Moscow, they're still living in a Y1K world.

"We're used to power shortages here," says Nikolai Korolov. "Of course it's more entertaining to have the TV on, but if the power goes out we'll just light up a candle."