WASHINGTON, August 29 (RIA Novosti) – The Washington-Moscow hotline set up after the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis to prevent accidental nuclear war turns 50 this month – and remains in use as US-Russian ties continue to cool, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Officials will mark the anniversary Thursday at Fort Detrick in Maryland, where the hotline’s satellite link is maintained by the US Army. Contrary to popular belief, the hotline was never a red telephone but rather a system initially used for written communication only, the AP said.
A voice component was added in the 1980s, and today the system can be used for email and private chats, Michael Bohn, a former White House Situation Room director told the AP.
The hotline was first used in a crisis during the 1967 Israeli-Arab Six-Day War, during which Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin and US President Lyndon Johnson exchanged a total of 19 messages.
Former Soviet space exploration director Roald Sagdeev, who is scheduled to speak at the Fort Detrick event was quoted by AP as saying that the hotline remains relevant today.
"It's very important to make sure we can keep this, especially at the time of what's happening in Syria," Sagdeev said.
Not every communication on the hotline has been of world-shaking importance however. The AP reported that the first message transmitted from the US side on August 30, 1963 was: "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back 1234567890."