Tue. Sep 26th, 2023
The Complicated Relationship Between Elon Musk, Starlink, and Ukraine: A Critique of US Government

Elon Musk’s actions have been widely criticized, particularly in his dealings with Ukraine and the rise of global oligarchs. But it is important to consider the role of the Pentagon and the US government in allowing Musk to hold such a position of power. Initially, when the support for Ukraine was at its peak, Musk sent free Starlink devices to the country and promised to cover the cost of the service. However, when his interest in Ukraine waned, he threatened to shut down the service unless the Pentagon paid for it. This behavior is characteristic of Musk’s unpredictable nature. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the US government to cover the costs of mission-critical technology for their allies at war.

The dispute over the cost of the service became messy, and it remains unclear if there were underlying factors contributing to the argument. However, it is evident that the US should have been willing to pay for it once they recognized its critical importance to the Ukrainian war effort.

There are three key reasons for the disagreement over the cost of the service. Firstly, at the start of the war, it was not apparent to the Pentagon or other authorities how crucial Starlink’s service would be. This could be attributed to the prominent role of drones and small reconnaissance units in the Ukrainian army. Secondly, the US government was slow in realizing the significance of Musk and his companies in providing essential technology to foreign militaries. Lastly, they failed to comprehend the true extent of Musk’s eccentricities.

It is worth mentioning that Musk’s transformation into a controversial figure coincided with the outbreak of the war. While the perception of a major defense contractor like SpaceX/Starlink may differ within the Pentagon procurement apparatus, online observers witnessed a different narrative. The idea that a US defense contractor freely communicated with the Russian government and even the Russian President to make military supply decisions is simply unbelievable.

Even now, as the US and Ukraine attempt to rectify the situation, it is clear that Musk is exempt from standard regulations. This raises concerns about his accountability.

In any case, it is crucial to address some omissions in the discussion of this saga. One major critique lies with the Biden administration and the US military in managing the situation. Starlink was enabled in Ukraine based on a tweet from the Ukrainian minister of technology, which prompted Musk to provide the service without any formal contract or oversight. The US government should have established a contract immediately after recognizing the value of Starlink, rather than waiting until a few months ago. Additionally, they should have addressed Musk’s questionable interactions with Russian officials and his controversial statements about Crimea and Ukraine.

The problem lies in the lack of a true alternative to SpaceX. While alternatives like Boeing and Blue Origin have faced significant delays and issues, SpaceX remains the leading provider of reliable technology at a lower cost. This has led the US military to heavily rely on SpaceX, despite the complications it entails. It is unclear what the solution is, but it is clear that putting Musk and SpaceX under contract should have happened much earlier.

Overall, the relationship between Elon Musk, Starlink, and Ukraine reveals the need for better oversight and strategic planning on the part of the US government to avoid relying on individual whims and ensure stable support for critical technologies.