After 50 years, history is repeating itself. And that could be a good thing.
The United States and Russia this week agreed to establish a cybersecurity hotline to help reduce the risk of conflict in cyberspace. The pact will build on the experiences of the United States and the old Soviet Union in averting nuclear war.
The White House said the move is one of several measures the two nations will take “to increase transparency and reduce the possibility that a misunderstood cyber incident could create instability or a crisis.”
The Washington Post described the accord as “a rare positive development in an area of national security otherwise dominated by gloomy assessments of increased threats and capabilities among other nations and terrorists.”
The cyberspace pact comes almost 50 years to the day after the June 20, 1963, signing of the agreement that led to the establishment of a 24-hour hotline between Moscow and Washington to speed communications between the two superpowers and help prevent the possibility of an accidental nuclear war.
That Cold War accord followed the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the United States and Soviet Union neared the brink of nuclear war. Contrary to movie lore, it wasn’t a red telephone at the White House that was the mode of communication but teletype machines and encoding devices installed in the Kremlin and Pentagon.
The hotline was never needed to head off war between the United States and the Soviets, although it was used by President Lyndon Johnson during the Six Day War in 1967 and by President Richard Nixon during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Times and threats have changed. The need for open, reliable communication has not. As the hacking of U.S. computer systems by China and others shows, cyberspace is increasingly being used as a battlefield without borders, posing both military and criminal threats.
It’s important to have clear, open communication between two nations that can help advance cooperation and enhance security for both.