Understandably, I receive quite a few e-mails from readers. Sometimes
they want to know when Russia might launch an attack. Usually they
mention Y2K as a possible “window of opportunity.” Is Y2K a good time to
launch an attack against the United States? The answer to this question,
it seems, has been provided by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
On Sept. 22 Reuters carried a story headlined “Pentagon Planners Mull
Y2K Sneak Attack,” by Jim Wolf. The opening paragraph of Wolf’s article
reported that the Y2K computer glitch “could open the door to a sneak
attack on the United States, especially if many automated systems crash.
Wolf’s story was based on a Department of Defense
contingency-planning memo released on Sept. 21. The memo, sent by the
Joint Chiefs of Staff to top U.S. commanders on Sept. 10, acknowledged
serious defense-related vulnerabilities in the event of system-wide
computer failures. The Joint Chiefs of Staff felt that the problem was
serious enough to warrant emergency procedures.
Five special levels of alert were discussed by the Joint Chiefs’
memo. The highest alert level would be “Y2K Posture Level One,” which
would be announced in the event of widespread computer failures.
According to the memo, if U.S. defense computers fail, “opportunistic
engagements by hostile forces are possible.”
Perhaps what is most alarming, in this context, is Russia’s current
military preparations. As we approach the year 2000, Russia is
mobilizing its troops, aircraft and ships. Why?
Some experts see the Kremlin’s current (pre-Y2K) war preparations as
meaningless ritual — like an old witch doctor warding off nonexistent
evil spirits. Such silly behavior, they believe, is ingrained in a
continental country traditionally surrounded by enemies. Since Russia’s
main industry was built with war production in mind, what should we
expect after last year’s financial collapse? Russia’s new militaristic
posture is a logical reversion — and nothing more.
Hopefully this analysis is correct. All the same, Americans should be
made aware of the dangerous war rhetoric of Russia’s leaders, and the
Kremlin’s ever intensifying preparations. Americans also need to
cultivate a new open-mindedness. We need to give ourselves permission
to speak openly about the danger of nuclear war without fear of ridicule.
That being said, let us also acknowledge that Russia’s military
preparations match up with similar preparations in countries like China
and North Korea. It seems that we are headed for some kind of military
crisis. Whether that crisis is a series of regional wars or a full-scale
nuclear war, something big is in the making.
It is in the context of heightened tensions between East and West
that the Y2K computer glitch presents itself as an occasion of very real
danger. This is not only because defense computers may fail, leaving us
without an early-warning system. There is also the possibility that
Russia could mask
attack preparations as Y2K preparations.
Emergency measures taken by the Russian leaders may look similar to
those taken in advance of a nuclear attack. But how can we tell the
difference? To list just one example, prior to a nuclear attack on the
United States Russia would switch many of its sensitive systems from
automatic to manual
control. Because of the danger of EMP attacks during a nuclear war,
modifications to electronic equipment and partial shutdowns in key
economic sectors would also be expected. Already the Russian government
has announced a reduction in the number of airplane flights for the end
of December, and the shutting down of hazardous industrial enterprises.
Another danger presented by Y2K appears in the form of foolish U.S.
decisions. Like a man who crosses the road while looking in the wrong
direction, the United States is currently making a number of critical
missteps in the name of Y2K. Among the more curious Y2K precautions, the
United States is withdrawing hundreds of employees and family members
from our embassy in Russia and our embassies in three other former
Soviet republics. Although U.S. experts claim there is no risk to our
diplomatic staff during the Y2K changeover in Russia, the Clinton
administration has nonetheless moved ahead on evacuation plans. With
embassies in more than 100 nations, the United States will only be
evacuating personnel from the former Soviet Union.
By evacuating our embassy in Moscow prior to Dec. 31, the Clinton
administration is effectively trashing our on-the-ground intelligence
capability. As everyone in the spy business knows, embassies are centers
for gathering intelligence on the host country. To remove all but a
skeleton crew from our Russian outpost is to reduce our chances of
discovering aggressive plans or intentions in advance.
Think of it this way: While the Joint Chiefs are worried about a
potential sneak attack during the Y2K changeover, Clinton is removing
our intelligence assets from Russia. Once again, the president’s
behavior invites the suspicion that he is untrustworthy.
Even more strange is that America is not alone in reducing its
diplomatic staff in the former Soviet Union. The British and other West
European governments are reducing their embassy staff as well. But
according to the New York Times of Nov. 8, “the American Exodus is
expected to be the largest.”
Another strange precaution involves the placement of Russian military
personnel inside a U.S. nuclear war command center in Colorado. The
stated purpose of this arrangement, according to a story by Reuters, is
“to prevent either side thinking the other has launched any of the
missiles in their massive nuclear arsenals.”
Imagine what this signifies. Russian military personnel will be
placed inside our command center expressly for the purpose of preventing
our people from thinking the Russians have launched an attack. What do
you suppose the Russian generals think about this kind of an
opportunity? Will it ever occur again? The exact words of the Reuters
story should give us pause. The U.S. military must be crazy to allow
this kind of arrangement. If the Pentagon is worried about a surprise
attack, what sense does it make putting a bunch of Russian military
officers in our most sensitive command center so they can argue that the
missiles we see on our radar are some kind of Y2K glitch?
The entire arrangement stinks. Of course, the Russian military is not
going to allow any U.S. personnel into their command bunkers. After all,
the Russian generals aren’t fools. It seems that only Americans are
stupid enough to allow a potential adversary to place agents of
confusion at the
center of a vital command system during a time of increased danger.
The United States is not playing a good game. Much of this, no doubt,
is due to President Clinton. America’s military unreadiness has never
been lower. On Nov. 10 the Washington Post carried a story entitled “Two
Army Divisions Unfit for Major War, Both Flunk Ratings of Preparedness,”
Bradley Graham. It seems that the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division and
the 1st Infantry Division are short on manpower, equipment and training.
About this situation, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said, “Over the
past several years, the readiness of the Army has been deteriorating as
a result of insufficient funding. …”
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain — who is running for president —
regularly refers to the United States as the world’s “only superpower.”
Not to single out McCain, but this mindless rant hails from both
political parties. In truth, the U.S. Army only has ten divisions. Now
we find that two of them
don’t work. Besides that, the other eight divisions were rated C-2 in
the monthly report. The highest rating, of course, is C-1. Meanwhile,
the Russian defense minister is boasting about the excellent ratings
achieved by his divisions as they rotate in and out of Chechnya.
Yet another alarming story concerns America’s tactical nuclear
forces. The United States once had tens of thousands of tactical nuclear
weapons. Today there are 200 left. According to government sources, most
of America’s remaining tactical nuclear weapons are in Western Europe.
But not for long. On Nov. 5 The Express (UK) published a story entitled,
“US nuclear force set to quit Europe,” by Tim Shipman. According to the
story, the U.S. pullout will coincide with an end to American military
deployments at British air bases such as Lakenheath and Suffolk.
According to Shipman, an announcement on the pullout is to be expected
some time in December.
Many factors of weakness are coming together at a moment of increased
danger. American readiness is low, Russian readiness is building. The
Joint Chiefs are worried about a surprise attack, but their resources
are at a low ebb. Even more troubling, many of Russia’s military
preparations seem to
have a December deadline. For example, on Nov. 26 Itar-Tass ran a story
about Russia’s efforts to ready its large anti-submarine ships to join
the Northern Fleet before the end of December.
Another curious Itar-Tass story is about Chinese ships stopping off
at Russian ports on their way to America — once again, in December. The
story appeared on Nov. 29 and was entitled, “Sino-Russian Panel to
Discuss Transportation via Primorye.” In this story we have China —
with its large merchant marine — sending ships to Russia’s Pacific
ports as a shortcut to America. Supposedly, stopping off in Russia will
shorten the trip to the U.S. by five to six days.
If that isn’t enough to make your skin crawl, the European Union
Parliament requested that the U.S. shut down its early warning system
over the New Year to avoid an accidental nuclear war. Of course, the EU
representatives made the same request of Russia; but the Russians aren’t
stupid. As for President Clinton, we can only hope that somebody in the
Joint Chiefs will restrain him.
In terms of America’s global military position, Y2K is a “virtual”
minefield. Many missteps are possible. An aggressive adversary could
exploit the situation. Given the increased danger, and the vast
uncertainties, we ought to say a prayer for the country. If we’re able
to watch the parades and football games on New Year’s Day, if the world
is at peace, it will be a moment of relief and gratitude for those of us
who worry about an attack from Russia. Having navigated a dangerous
moment, the New Year could be an occasion for extra special celebration.