Musk found himself trying to please both Ukraine and Russia while trying to prevent escalation. His refusal to provide satellite coverage of a Ukrainian attack on Crimea exposed his dilemma. But Starlink's importance in the war did not diminish
Elon Musk secretly ordered his SpaceX engineers to shut down the Starlink satellite communications network off the coast of Crimea last year, in order to disrupt a surprise Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy. This is according to an excerpt from a new biography of Musk by Walter Isaacson.
When Ukrainian submarines equipped with explosives approached the Russian fleet, they lost contact and drifted ashore without causing damage.
Musk's decision, which left Ukrainians begging him to get the satellites back up and running, stemmed from intense fear that Russia would respond to a Ukrainian attack on Crimea with nuclear weapons. This fear was reinforced in his conversations with senior Russian officials.
Musk's fears about a "mini Pearl Harbor" did not materialize in Crimea. But the incident reveals the unique position in which Musk found himself when the war in Ukraine began. Like it or not, he became an arbiter that Americans could not ignore.
After Russia jammed Ukraine's communications systems on the eve of a full-scale invasion in February 2022, Musk agreed to provide Ukraine with millions of dollars worth of Starlink satellite equipment, which has become vital to Ukraine's military operations.
But when Ukraine began using Starlink for offensive attacks against Russia, Musk began to question that decision. He feared over-involvement in the war.
Musk found himself trying to please both Ukraine and Russia while trying to prevent escalation. His refusal to provide satellite coverage of a Ukrainian attack on Crimea exposed his dilemma. But Starlink's importance in the war did not diminish.
The Ukrainian response was not long in coming: Mykhailo Podolyak. Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky: "Sometimes a mistake is much more than just a mistake. By not allowing the Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian fleet (!) by interfering with Starlink, Elon Musk allowed this fleet to fire caliber missiles into Ukrainian cities. As a result, civilians and children were killed. This is the price for a cocktail of ignorance and a huge ego. However, the question still remains: Why do some people want with all their heart to defend war criminals and their desire to commit murder? Do they realize now that they are doing bad and encouraging bad?"