A group of three Democratic senators from the Armed Services Committee has called on the Department of Defense to investigate conflicting reports regarding Starlink owner Elon Musk’s alleged involvement in disabling or impeding the function of Starlink satellite communications by the Ukrainian military in the past year.
Senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois penned a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stating that these reports raise serious concerns about whether Musk personally undertook actions to undermine a critical U.S. partner during a time of conflict.
The claim of Musk interfering with Ukrainian military’s access to Starlink surfaced in an upcoming book by journalist Walter Isaacson and was initially reported by CNN. The excerpt from the book described Musk disabling Starlink access in anticipation of a planned Ukrainian attack in Crimea. CNN cited Musk’s concerns about enabling an attack that could potentially escalate into a nuclear conflict with Russian troops. However, Musk denied these allegations, clarifying that he had never deactivated Starlink for the Ukrainians. He affirmed that the satellite services had always been geofenced to exclude Crimea and that he had rejected an emergency request from the Ukrainian government to enable access for their operation.
Musk asserted that granting access to the Ukrainian government’s operation would have made his company complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation, considering that Crimea has been under Russian control since its annexation in 2014. Musk’s decision was meant to prevent inadvertently aiding a Russian fleet-sinking attack that would have implicated his company.
The senators referenced Musk’s statements, arguing that his actions provided de facto protection to Russian military assets, allowing them to continue launching attacks on Ukrainian population centers and critical infrastructure. While Musk initially provided Ukraine with free access to Starlink during the invasion, the company subsequently signed a contract with the Department of Defense.
The senators have requested the Department of Defense to provide information by October 31st regarding any other instances where Starlink access may have been disabled or restricted during the war in Ukraine. They also seek details about the terms and conditions of the department’s contract with Starlink and whether alternative means of satellite communications for Ukraine are being explored that do not rely on a privately owned company.