In August 2008, Georgia attacked Tskhinvali, Southern Ossetia, a Georgian city filled with Russian ‘peacekeepers’ and Ossetians to whom Russia recently granted citizenship. Because Russian citizens were in danger, Putin had no choice: He counterattacked and rescued them. Then the Russian military mauled Georgia’s forces and pushed them back to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Russia worked to instigate Georgia and give justification for defending Ossetia but did not attack first. Georgia did. It is strange, then, that the US president thought otherwise. Recently, at United Russia’s party convention, a possible reason for this confusion was revealed: Just months before Georgia’s attack, on the day of Medvedev’s inauguration, the Washington-Moscow Hotline, the direct line between the American president and the Russian leader Putin was redirected. Medvedev began to answer calls instead of his boss.
The Hotline was originally established to allow Russian and American leaders to directly communicate without intermediaries. As a result, relations became more transparent and misunderstanding less likely. With Medvedev, an intermediary, answering the Hotline, Obama no longer has a direct line to Putin and confusion has resulted. To re-establish this important means of communication, we have created a new Hotline that is modeled after the old.
The original Hotline, called the Red Telephone in the Soviet Union and the “linchpin of planetary megadeath” by Wired, connected the White House and the Kremlin. Using terminals placed in Moscow and Washington, American and Soviet/Russian leaders were able to communicate directly. The Soviet Union claimed to have dreamed up the idea during the Korean War, though it did not catch on until after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The line’s need became apparent because tensions were high between the US and USSR and nuclear war threatened. And to diffuse this situation, Kennedy and Khrushchev were exchanging letters. After signing an agreement on “creating a direct line of communication between the US and USSR”, the Hotline was installed on August 30, 1963.
The Hotline rang for the first time during the 1967 six-day war between Israel and its neighbors. The USSR and USA planned to enter the conflict on opposite sides. The Soviets sailed their Black Sea Fleet into the Mediterranean to prepare to attack Israel. The US’s Sixth fleet was already in position and ready to bombard Egypt. The twenty messages that the US and Soviet Union exchanged prevented these attacks, keeping the conflict from escalating into World War III. Over the Hotline, Soviet and American leaders clearly stated their intents and goals. So the rival superpowers interpreted each other’s actions accurately, and negotiations were conducted quickly and smoothly. During the 1971 war between India and Pakistan and the 1973 war between Israel and Egypt, the Hotline was used similarly.
After the attacks on September 11, Putin called Bush. He became the first world leader to express his condolences. Afterwards the two presidents bonded. There are pictures of them laughing and chatting with the Hotline’s handsets pressed to their ears. Unfortunately, their relationship did not last. In 2003, the Rose Revolution removed Georgia’s president, Shevardnadze, from power. Putin blamed the success of Saakashvili, the revolution’s leader, on American aid. It did not help that Bush publicly lauded the revolution and had a Georgian highway named after him. Putin and George spoke over the Hotline less and less. Then, Putin unplugged it.
Originally, the line was made to directly connect the US’s and the Soviet Union’s then Russia’s most powerful politicians. Medvedev is and was Putin’s lackey. So as soon as Putin made Medvedev president and passed him the red phone, it no longer directly linked the US’s and Russia’s key decision makers. Possibly recognizing this in frustration masked as humor or sarcasm, Obama proposed tossing out the phones altogether. According to a televised statement, during a crisis, they could tweet instead (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20008776-503544.html).
Until Putin takes the presidency back, the Russian and American reset, Obama’s plan for improving relations, is in danger. Without a direct line of communication between Obama and Putin, misunderstandings grow more and more likely. This danger increases the closer we get to the parliamentary/congressional and presidential elections in Russia and the US. You can be sure that there will be xenophobic remarks grenaded between both countries’ politicians. During these dangerous times, we argue that a hotline is not only necessary but essential for continuing with the Reset. As such, up to Putin’s election and most likely afterwards, we will be working to provide Obama, Putin, and our other readers with news and analysis of Russian and American relations while encouraging direct discussions between Russians and Americans.
We have worked to ensure that the new Hotline’s features are similar to its predecessor’s. There are two sides that are modeled after the hotline terminals that were established in Washington and in the Kremlin.www.washline.wordpress.com is the US, English language site andwww.kremline.wordpress.com is the Russian site. Using these terminals, specifically by commenting on our articles, Putin and Obama can directly discuss the foreign policy issues and crises that we report and analyze. Any other readers who would like to participate can join them. To help those like Obama who do not speak both English and Russia, we will be translating and transmitting selected summaries of readers’ comments from one side of the line to the other. Between communiqués, like the operators under Bush and Yeltsin, we will be posting quotes, jokes, and puns to keep the president, prime minister, and our readers from becoming bored.
During the Cold War, the original hotline prevented nuclear holocaust and improved poor relations between the US and USSR. It is a shame that we have allowed three years to pass without it functioning. One result may have been less cooperation and colder relations after the Georgian-Russian war. The founding of the new hotline and the creation of the sites www.kremline.wordpress.com and www.washline.wordpress.com puts an end to this dark period. It also marks a new era for the Hotline itself during which it will have expanded features. Most importantly, articles reporting on and analyzing Russian-US relations will be available on both terminals. Also, not only Russian and American leaders will be able to directly comment on our articles and discuss US-Russian relations but anyone who visits our sites. The Hotline will hopefully become a trusted source for information on US Russian relations and house lively discussions. We hope that through it, we will all gain greater understanding of each other’s policies.
Background information on the Hotline
http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2011/08/dead-media-beat-the-hotline/ (good picture)