Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
The Controversy Surrounding Starlink and Ukraine’s Military Needs

The United States and its treaty allies have their own constellations of satellites with secure communications networks to meet their military needs. However, Ukraine, not being a major military power, relies on civilian networks. While it may be technically possible to integrate Ukraine into the US systems, it would bring them uncomfortably close to confrontations with Russia. Furthermore, security concerns also play a role in this decision.

This distinction between military and civilian networks is at the heart of the controversy. Starlink, being a civilian network, is not essential for the national security of the US and its allies. Countries with access to secure military satellite networks do not rely on Starlink. However, this highlights the immense power held by individuals like Elon Musk, who have similar influence to that of the most powerful states in the world.

The lack of reliance on Starlink for national security is also the reason why the US and its allies have not entered into contractual agreements with SpaceX that would require the company to meet military and national security requirements. If they desired, the US and its allies could potentially share their military satellite communications systems with Ukraine. The reason for not doing so may involve concerns about the technical details leaking from Ukraine or the possibility of capturing ground systems for satellite communication.

Since Starlink is primarily used as a civilian, non-classified satellite communication system, the US government does not exert any control over it. Consequently, Ukraine is left using a sophisticated but still civilian network for their military needs. This situation is comparable to what would happen if they were relying on commercial cellular networks to control their military technology.

Although not ideal, this is the current reality for Ukraine. They have to depend on a civilian network for their military requirements, which puts them at the mercy of the network provider.