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Allow me to open my question by citing an example from recent history:

If you recall in Sept 2021 it was revealed by Axios that during the chaos of the 2020 election/post-election General Mark Milley had personally called General Li Zuocheng to ensure him that there was no 'surprise strike' coming from the US towards China, as there were rumors of such a strike circling its way through Chinese Intelligence.

This became a large controversy for General Milley, who had to testify to the before the Senate; but that is not of relevant concern to this question. The point is that outside of standard media, the State Department, even the Department of Defense, there exist these channels of communication between military leaders and commanders. Likewise I would assume such secret independent channels to exist between intelligence officers, and even state officials who operate largely independent of the domestic political concerns. There are countless examples like the Milley/Li relationship throughout history; this was just the most recent example.

Is there any evidence to suggest the existence of such relationships between Russia and the US or rather NATO at large? Is there some level of assurance both can give to each other that they are not willing to enter complete Nuclear War? Do Putin's Generals and NATO Generals talk to each other as foes who understand the need to set boundaries...especially in a situation like this, or are they giving each other the silent treatment?

I understand my question asking about things that would by nature be confidential. But I would appreciate any reference to potential relationships, or specific individuals operating at a high level who have personal histories, or even if such an architecture of communication can possibly exist between with states like Russia the US.

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  • There were such chanels during the Cold War and theoreticaly they should still exist, but can´t be 100% shure about it.
    – convert
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 17:14

3 Answers 3

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In 1963, the USA and the USSR established a hotline, dubbed the "red telephone" (likely as a communist reference) officially known as Washington-Moscow Direct Communications Link, likely spearheaded by the Cuban Missle crisis. There are many more such hot lines such as between the capitals of North and South Korea, India and Pakistan, and the USA and China.

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    This is the kind of thing the question is asking about, but it's specifically asking about the present day, not the 1960s
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 20:48
  • @divibisan All of these still exist; I'm not sure what your asking. Are you asking if anyone made new ones in 2022?
    – uberhaxed
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 21:09
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    I'm well aware of the 'red telephone', however that is a device that was famously rarely used. And it was an official line of communication. This is not at all what I am asking about since of course direct lines of communication exist. During the Iran/Iraq war for instance generals on both sides would often calm the intensity of battle by going around their political leaders(Saddam and Khomeini...both of which quite intense figures), to give each other personal assurances. This is more the kind of thing I am asking about. Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 21:14
  • @BertrandEinsteinIV It was rarely used because the US has no occasion to use it because they actively avoid situations that would require confrontation with Russia. The most recent usage I believe is Barack Obama coordinating with Putin during the Syrian civil war to make sure that US and Russian forces do not make contact since they were fighting one opposite sides.
    – uberhaxed
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 21:23
  • @divibisan But the hotline esteblished 1963 is still there.
    – convert
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 22:35
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Such channels do exist but answering the question is nearly impossible, since:

  • they are usually kept secret
  • these channels are frequently informal

Condolezza Rice in her autobiography No higher honor mentions just such a channel between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, during their first meeting:

The two presidents went into a room for a one-on-one session. Rarely are such sessions truly “under four eyes,” and in that case I accompanied President Bush while Vladimir Rushailo attended with Putin. [...]
The two leaders started with pleasantries, but it did not take long for them to get down to business. President Bush said to Putin, “I have to know whom you trust. Who is the person we should turn to if there are sensitive matters between us?” “Sergei Ivanov, the minister of defense,” Putin answered. The President nodded and said, “For me it will be Condi.”
I wondered if anyone else had noticed the asymmetry. I was the President’s “go-to person”; Rushailo was apparently just along for the ride.

Lower level military hotline to avoid accidental conflict in areas where the military forces of two countries might be operating is commonplace and often is a public knowledge. For example:

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There are different sort of channels. The acknowledged ones are often labeled as

  • Track 1, where government officials talk to each other,
  • Track 2, where non-officials talk to each other, and
  • Track 1.5, where officials talk to non-officials.

A high-visibility example of Track 1.5 is when a former American President talks to a foreign head of state. Somebody like Jimmy Carter would be assumed to speak with consent of the current President, but not officially in the name of the United States. If the other side is a government, there is one "private citizen" in the relay between governments.

Track 2 happens for example when scholars from RAND talk to their foreign counterparts. Everybody involved knows that the views which are stated are not officially government policy, but there is an expectation that the speakers are both aware of their government policy, and able to get information back to their respective governments. So there are two "private citizens" in the relay between governments.

Military-to-military contacts are a special kind of Track 1 exchange. Both sides are official, even if they are under the order of their civilian governments. Likewise, most international treaties or conferences get prepared by the so-called Sherpas, senior bureaucrats who negotiate the details.

The problem with the assurance you are asking about is that professionals on both sides stress their adherence to the chain of command. And it would be rather disturbing if a general tells his or her foreign counterpart that a coup is brewing.

When the military 'just talks' without a specific issue, that is a form of confidence-building measure. This was common for parts of the Cold War and afterwards, but it has been sharply reduced in recent years. Russia and NATO have the NATO-Russia Council.

In addition, there are hotlines for 'operational' communications.

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