Secretary of State Antony Blinken has declined to criticize Elon Musk after the SpaceX founder refused to help the Ukrainian government access his Starlink internet service to attack Russia. Blinken was questioned by CNN’s Jake Tapper about the details confirmed by Musk in a new book, which included the Ukrainian government’s requests to activate Starlink in Crimea for a submarine drone attack against Russian naval forces.
Blinken emphasized the importance of Starlink for the Ukrainians in terms of communication and defense efforts. Tapper questioned whether Musk should face repercussions for undermining a military operation by a US ally against an aggressor country. Blinken, however, could not comment on specific conversations or diplomatic outreach by Musk to the Russian government. He focused on the significance of the technology itself and its continued importance to Ukraine.
The controversy surrounding Musk’s stance emerged in response to a biography excerpt by Walter Isaacson, claiming that Musk had shut off Starlink’s connection in Crimea. Musk clarified that there was never Starlink coverage in Crimea. He maintained that enabling it for the Ukrainian drone attack would have caused a major war and violated the terms of service that prohibit offensive military action. Musk also stated that SpaceX is building Starshield for the US government, which is smaller in scale and will be owned and controlled by the government.
Musk’s refusal to allow Ukraine to use Starlink for military purposes has drawn criticism from Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who accused Musk of costing lives. However, Musk has previously defended his decision, stating that SpaceX will not enable the escalation of conflict that could lead to World War III. While Starlink remains restricted for military use in Ukraine, it can still be utilized for civilian purposes such as communication and humanitarian relief.
The incident highlights the complexities surrounding the deployment of satellite internet services and the considerations of private companies in geopolitical conflicts. Despite calls for criticism, the US government has refrained from commenting directly on Musk’s actions, acknowledging the importance of Starlink for a range of applications in Ukraine.