Musk Says He Limited Ukraine’s Starlink to Prevent Attack on Russia

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Elon Musk has confirmed that he in essence scuttled a Ukrainian military strike on Russia by refusing to allow Starlink to be used in the process. The billionaire claims the decision was made to avoid being “complicit in a major act of war,” but it also raises serious questions regarding the role of oligarchs in military matters.

The news was first reported by CNN, citing Walter Isaacson’s upcoming biography of Musk. In the book, Musk describes a situation in 2022 when Ukraine planned an attack on Russia’s navy off the coast of Crimea.

The ships and marine drones that would have performed this attack relied on Starlink for connectivity, but the satellite internet service was not (Musk asserted later on X/Twitter) active over the region. When Ukraine made an “emergency request” to activate it, he refused, and the drones “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” obviously leaving the Russian ships untouched.

In a way the matter is very simple: A government requested a service from a private company that the leader of that company thought was inappropriate, and declined. Therein is demonstrated the inherent risk of relying on a private service for the prosecution of warfare — Musk was in effect a mercenary or arms dealer, albeit less directly involved in violence. (Russia itself would soon have its own demonstration of a similar principle when the Wagner Group marched on Moscow.)

But in another, far more troubling interpretation of events, an American billionaire made a unilateral military decision for a foreign allied power. Doubtless this has happened countless times before, but seldom has a technology from outside the military-industrial complex (and thus outside its norms and expectations) risen so quickly to prominence as Starlink has due to — it must be said — Musk’s own promotion of it for use by Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.

The complex mathematics of geopolitics are beyond the scope of this article (and indeed this site and your author), but it is hard not to wonder whether it is appropriate for Musk to offer a key service to support Ukraine, only to withdraw it at his own discretion.

“If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation,” Musk wrote in justification of his decision.

This is fair enough in its way, but, as with many of the CEO’s pronouncements, is profoundly dismissive of important context.

Leaving aside that Starlink had been a key enabler of countless military actions already, one does not need to be an expert to find dubious Musk’s claim that this would have amounted to a “mini-Pearl Harbor.” Ukraine and Russia were by this time in open war, instigated by the latter’s invasion; to compare a counterattack against an aggressor during a serious and ongoing conflict to the infamous sneak attack that drew the U.S. into World War II is at best ignorant. But considering Musk’s proposals that the conflict end with concessions to Russia, it feels more disingenuous.

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Musk Says He Limited Ukraine’s Starlink to Prevent Attack on Russia

Elon Musk has confirmed that he in essence scuttled a Ukrainian military strike on Russia by refusing to allow Starlink to be used in the process. The billionaire claims the decision was made to avoid being “complicit in a major act of war,” but it also raises serious questions regarding the role of oligarchs in military matters.

The news was first reported by CNN, citing Walter Isaacson’s upcoming biography of Musk. In the book, Musk describes a situation in 2022 when Ukraine planned an attack on Russia’s navy off the coast of Crimea.

The ships and marine drones that would have performed this attack relied on Starlink for connectivity, but the satellite internet service was not (Musk asserted later on X/Twitter) active over the region. When Ukraine made an “emergency request” to activate it, he refused, and the drones “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” obviously leaving the Russian ships untouched.

In a way the matter is very simple: A government requested a service from a private company that the leader of that company thought was inappropriate, and declined. Therein is demonstrated the inherent risk of relying on a private service for the prosecution of warfare — Musk was in effect a mercenary or arms dealer, albeit less directly involved in violence. (Russia itself would soon have its own demonstration of a similar principle when the Wagner Group marched on Moscow.)

But in another, far more troubling interpretation of events, an American billionaire made a unilateral military decision for a foreign allied power. Doubtless this has happened countless times before, but seldom has a technology from outside the military-industrial complex (and thus outside its norms and expectations) risen so quickly to prominence as Starlink has due to — it must be said — Musk’s own promotion of it for use by Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.

The complex mathematics of geopolitics are beyond the scope of this article (and indeed this site and your author), but it is hard not to wonder whether it is appropriate for Musk to offer a key service to support Ukraine, only to withdraw it at his own discretion.

“If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation,” Musk wrote in justification of his decision.

This is fair enough in its way, but, as with many of the CEO’s pronouncements, is profoundly dismissive of important context.

Leaving aside that Starlink had been a key enabler of countless military actions already, one does not need to be an expert to find dubious Musk’s claim that this would have amounted to a “mini-Pearl Harbor.” Ukraine and Russia were by this time in open war, instigated by the latter’s invasion; to compare a counterattack against an aggressor during a serious and ongoing conflict to the infamous sneak attack that drew the U.S. into World War II is at best ignorant. But considering Musk’s proposals that the conflict end with concessions to Russia, it feels more disingenuous.

Disclaimer

We strive to uphold the highest ethical standards in all of our reporting and coverage. We StartupNews.fyi want to be transparent with our readers about any potential conflicts of interest that may arise in our work. It’s possible that some of the investors we feature may have connections to other businesses, including competitors or companies we write about. However, we want to assure our readers that this will not have any impact on the integrity or impartiality of our reporting. We are committed to delivering accurate, unbiased news and information to our audience, and we will continue to uphold our ethics and principles in all of our work. Thank you for your trust and support.

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