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At the Pentagon, the hotline system is located at the National Military Command Center. MOLINK staffers take special care not to include innuendo or literary imagery that could be misinterpreted, such as passages from Winnie the Pooh, given that a bear is considered the national symbol of Russia.

Each MOLINK (Moscow Link) team historically worked an eight-hour shift: a non-commissioned officer looked after the equipment, and a commissioned officer who was fluent in Russian and well-briefed on world affairs was translator. The Soviets also asked, during the Carter administration, that Washington not send routine communications through the hotline.

The primary link was accidentally cut several times, for example near Copenhagen by a Danish bulldozer operator, and by a Finnish farmer who plowed it up once.

The first implementation used Teletype equipment, and shifted to fax machines in 1986.The Republican Party criticized the hotline in its 1964 national platform; it said the Kennedy administration had "sought accommodations with Communism without adequate safeguards and compensating gains for freedom. The cable was also used for the ordinary national telephone service. via London, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki to Moscow.It has alienated proven allies by opening a 'hot line' first with a sworn enemy rather than with a proven friend, and in general pursued a risky path such as it began at Munich a quarter century ago."In Finland there are still several signs marking the cable's location. The first generation of the hotline used two full-time duplex telegraph circuits. TAT-1, the first submarine transatlantic telephone cable carried messages from Washington to London.Schelling credited the pop fiction novel Red Alert (the basis of the film Dr.Strangelove) with making governments more aware of the benefit of direct communication between the superpowers. Smith, as head of the State Department Policy Planning Staff, proposed direct communication links between Moscow and Washington. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis made the hotline a priority.

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