Tue. Sep 26th, 2023
Senators Seeking Answers on Elon Musk’s Role in Ukrainian Military Communication

Three Democratic senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee have reached out to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with questions about Elon Musk’s involvement in disabling or restricting the Ukrainian military’s access to communication networks. The senators are specifically interested in whether the Defense Department has the authority to intervene in such matters.

The questions stem from information in journalist Walter Isaacson’s biography of Musk, where it was reported that Musk prevented the Ukrainian armed forces from using Starlink satellite communication terminals to attack Russian ships in southern Ukraine. Media reports initially suggested that Musk disabled the Starlink network near the Crimean Peninsula under pressure from senior Russian officials. However, Musk clarified on his social media platform that he did not discontinue Starlink over Crimea but refused Ukraine’s request to provide coverage there.

Democratic senators Jeanne Shaheen, Elizabeth Warren, and Tammy Duckworth are seeking clarification from Austin on what actually occurred and Musk’s specific role in the incident. They express concern about Musk’s actions potentially undermining a key U.S. partner and the need for the Defense Department to address such meddling.

The senators also raise serious concerns about Musk’s ability to interrupt Starlink services and the implications this has for a sovereign country’s self-defense. They want Austin to provide details on other cases where commercially provided services were disabled or restricted for Ukraine, the potential prohibition in Pentagon contracts with companies impeding services, and alternative options for ensuring communication during crises.

Senator Jack Reed, the Democratic chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has also voiced concerns about Musk’s business interests and their implications for U.S. national security. He emphasized the need to examine the broader satellite market and the role of government outsourcing, as well as the Pentagon’s actions and contractual arrangements.