OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Tesla, Space X and Starlink CEO Elon Musk has said he can no longer continue to fund the Starlink Internet access for the Ukraine military in the ongoing conflict with Russia.
Musk and his company donated terminals and Internet access to the Ukraine military that has been crucial in its war with Russia, but the company says it can no longer do that “indefinitely” and has asked the United States Pentagon to pay for the Internet service, CNBC reported.
“SpaceX’s request is reasonable. Shouldn’t expect a private sec co. to continue to fund this for free forever. Do Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop, etc do their work for free? SpaceX was generous in donating what they did & they’ll happily cont. to mfg terminals with gov money,” a Tesla investor named Sawyer Merritt said on Twitter, which Musk responded to.
Exactly. Unlike most of the other companies on the top 10 biggest defense contractors list, SpaceX is not publicly traded and doesn’t have huge revenue (yet).
— Sawyer Merritt (@SawyerMerritt) October 14, 2022
“SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households. This is unreasonable,” Musk said.
SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households. This is unreasonable.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2022
But musk hinted that there may be more at play in response to another tweet.
“Elon Musk’s Starlink says it can no longer afford to give Ukraine free service and asks the Pentagon to pay for it. Starlink had been a game changer in the war. This comes days after Ukrainian Ambassador @MelnykAndrij told Musk to ‘f””k off,” reporter Jason Jay Smart said.
“We’re just following his recommendation,” Musk said.
We’re just following his recommendation 🤷♂️
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2022
This month Musk offered his solutions for peace between Ukraine and Russia that included doing the elections of the regions annexed by Russia but with United Nations supervision and Russia will leave if that is what the people vote for. Crimea will formally become a part of Russia and water supply to Crimea would be assured. Ukraine would remain neutral.
“F*** off is my very diplomatic reply to you Elon Musk,” the ambassador said.
“The only outcome is that now no Ukrainian will EVER buy your fing tesla crap. So good luck to you,” he said.
In a letter to the Pentagon sent in September, Space X said it could not continue to fund the Internet for Ukraine as it has been, CNN reported.
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” it said.
Another letter to the Pentagon was penned by a consultant working for Space X.
“SpaceX faces terribly difficult decisions here. I do not think they have the financial ability to provide any additional terminals or service as requested by General Zaluzhniy,” they said.
The letters come amid recent reports of wide-ranging Starlink outages as Ukrainian troops attempt to retake ground occupied by Russia in the eastern and southern parts of the country.
Sources familiar with the outages said they suddenly affected the entire frontline as it stood on September 30. “That has affected every effort of the Ukrainians to push past that front,” said one person familiar with the outages who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations. “Starlink is the main way units on the battlefield have to communicate.”
There was no warning to Ukrainian forces, a second person said, adding that now when Ukraine liberates an area a request has to be made for Starlink services to be turned on.
The Financial Times first reported the outages which resulted in a “catastrophic” loss of communication, a senior Ukrainian official said. In a tweet responding to the article, Musk didn’t dispute the outage, saying that what is happening on the battlefield is classified.
SpaceX’s suggestion it will stop funding Starlink also comes amid rising concern in Ukraine over Musk’s allegiance. Musk recently tweeted a controversial peace plan that would have Ukraine give up Crimea and control over the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
“Ukraine knows that its current government and wartime efforts are totally dependent on Starlink,” a person familiar with the situation said. “The decision to keep Starlink running or not rests entirely in the hands of one man. That’s Elon Musk. He hasn’t been elected, no one decided to give him that power. He has it because of the technology and the company he built.”