`We did get the Kremlin once...'

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The Independent Online
PM: Tell me, general, where's the hotline?

General: Which one?

PM: The one to Russia?

Aide: The red hot line sir?

General: In Downing Street.

PM: So, in an emergency, I can get straight through to the Soviet President?

General: Theoretically, yes.

PM: Theoretically?

General: That's what we tell journalists. In fact, we did get through to the Kremlin once, but only to a switchboard operator.

PM: Did the operator put you through?

General: We never found out. Didn't seem to speak much English...

PM: How often is it tested?

Sir Humphrey: Well, they try not to test it too often. It tends to create unnecessary panic at the other end and panic's always a good thing to avoid where nuclear weapons are concerned, don't you think?

Excerpt from the BBC's Yes, Prime Minister, 1992