On This Day…

Washington-Moscow Hotline

August 30, 1963

The famous “hotline” direct communications line between Washington D.C. and Moscow opens. It provided emergency communication in the event of a crisis. The need for the line was realized during the Cuban Missile Crisis when it could take up to six hours to deliver diplomatic messages. It took the United States nearly twelve hours to receive and decode Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev‘s 3,000-word initial settlement message. By that time, Moscow had sent a tougher message. The belief was that a faster reply could have avoided this.
Although it became known as the “Red Phone”, it was never actually a telephone line, and no red phones were ever used. The first implementation used Teletype equipment, and then fax machines in 1986. In 2008 it became a secure computer link over which email messages are sent.