30 Aug: The Moscow-Washington Hotline

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets and Americans agreed to install a ‘hot line’ between their Presidents. On 30th August, 1963, a 10,000 mile transatlantic Washington-Moscow cable went live from the Pentagon to Red Square.

In the public imagination (in part thanks to Kubrik’s ‘Dr Strangelove’), it remains a red telephone – but it is, in fact, a pair of beige teletype machines that each required ten staff to operate.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why, prior to this, diplomacy was often being skipped altogether in favour of inflammatory radio broadcasts; consider what the messages the two nations send each other can tell us about their cultural differences; and marvel at just how much geopolitics hinges on whether two particular world leaders like each other… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Hot line’ between Washington and Moscow to be opened’ (The Guardian, 1963): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/31/hot-line-between-washington-and-moscow-1963-archive

• ‘There Never Was Such a Thing as a Red Phone in the White House’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2013):


• ‘History Of The Moscow-Washington ‘Red Phone’’ (NBC News, 2017):