It’s only a “red phone” in the movies, but the tense contacts between Washington and Moscow, which opened during the Cold War, have resumed amid Russian threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
This was confirmed by Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s chief security adviser.
To a reporter who asked him if “the red phone was working again,” he answered on September 25 on NBC: “The answer to your question is yes.”
Before specifying: “We have the ability to speak directly at a high level (to the Russians), to tell them clearly what our message is and to listen to their message.”
For “protection,” said Jake Sullivan, who did not want to give details of the exact nature of the communication channels used, nor about the frequency of the exchanges.
The term “red phone” has, over time, come to denote all secret, high-level communications of an urgent nature between Washington and Moscow.
But it was initially a very specific device created in 1963 between the United States and the Soviet Union.
In October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis shook the entire world.
The absence of direct contact reinforces speculation about the intentions of the opposing camp, and thus the risk of nuclear escalation. Then it takes several hours to transmit, translate and encrypt messages between Moscow and Washington.
And then the two countries will negotiate, down to the smallest detail, the creation of a system of communication that is fast, direct, and highly secure.
The “Memorandum of Understanding between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Establishment of a Direct Communications Link”, the first bilateral treaty between the two powers, was signed in Geneva on June 20, 1963.
in the movie Dr. StrangeloveIn Moscow, US President Mirkin Maffei had a tragic conversation with “Dmitriy” on the phone about the impending nuclear apocalypse.
In fact, the two capitals communicate by written messages, encoded and transmitted by a cable thousands of kilometers long (Washington – London – Copenhagen – Stockholm – Helsinki – Moscow).
According to a 2013 article by Smithsonian MagazineThe first message sent by the Americans was: “The quick brown fox has jumped over the back of the lazy dog 1234567890”.
It doesn’t mean much, but it has the advantage of using all possible characters in order to test hardware.
The system was modernized in 1971, replacing it with satellite links and stations installed in the two countries – on the American side, the link went to the Pentagon, which itself is connected to the crisis room of the White House, the “Situation Room”.
In a 1988 article, he published New York Times Magazine He compares the Pentagon room to “a well-equipped high school computer room” and tells how the system is tested hourly, every day, with messages unrelated to the news: “Americans sometimes send Shakespeare, Russian Chekhovs.”
In 1994, a new system gave defense officials in the two countries semi-permanent access.
The number of uses of this secure link is always kept confidential by the United States.
She served in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and then in the 1973 war, according to the US State Department.
The line, according to various press reports, was supposed to be heated during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and was to be widely used during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, with exchanges around Lebanon and Poland.
According to the NBC series or Washington Post, Former President Barack Obama used the “red phone” – in fact a highly secure email – on October 31, 2016, to formally warn Vladimir Putin about disrupting the impending US presidential election.