According to an excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Elon Musk, Musk secretly ordered engineers to turn off his company’s communication network in Ukraine in order to hobble a drone attack on Russian warships. Here’s a fresh reminder of why the US military should never be relying on the likes of Musk in the first place.
CNN Exclusive: ‘How am I in this war?’: New Musk biography offers fresh details about the billionaire’s Ukraine dilemma:
As Ukrainian submarine drones strapped with explosives approached the Russian fleet, they “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” Isaacson writes.
Musk’s decision, which left Ukrainian officials begging him to turn the satellites back on, was driven by an acute fear that Russia would respond to a Ukrainian attack on Crimea with nuclear weapons, a fear driven home by Musk’s conversations with senior Russian officials, according to Isaacson, whose new book is set to be released by Simon & Schuster on September 12.
Musk’s concerns over a “mini-Pearl Harbor” as he put it, did not come to pass in Crimea. But the episode reveals the unique position Musk found himself in as the war in Ukraine unfolded. Whether intended or not, he had become a power broker US officials couldn’t ignore.
After Russia disrupted Ukraine’s communications systems just before its full-scale invasion in February 2022, Musk agreed to provide Ukraine with millions of dollars of SpaceX-made Starlink satellite terminals, which became crucial to Ukraine’s military operations. Even as cellular phone and internet networks had been destroyed, the Starlink terminals allowed Ukraine to fight and stay connected.
But once Ukraine began to use Starlink terminals for offensive attacks against Russia, Musk started to second-guess that decision.
Here’s more from The Guardian:
Musk’s threats to withdraw Starlink communications at various stages of the conflict have been previously reported, but this is the first time it has been alleged he cut off Ukrainian forces in the middle of a specific operation.
The date of the would-be attack was not specified. Musk reportedly referred to it as a “mini Pearl Harbor”, although Ukrainian forces were operating within their internationally recognised territorial waters.
Musk, the CEO of the Tesla electric car company and SpaceX rocket and spacecraft manufacturer, as well as owner of X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, initially agreed to supply Starlink hardware to Ukraine after Russia’s full-scale invasion disrupted Ukrainian communications. But he reportedly had second thoughts after Kyiv succeeded in repelling the initial Russian assault and began to counterattack.
“How am I in this war?” Musk asked rhetorically in an interview with Isaacson. “Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes.”
Neither X nor SpaceX replied to requests for comment.
The United States shouldn’t be doing business with this man, period, and US officials voiced concern over relying on his technology months ago. Sadly I’m guessing there aren’t any good alternatives out there.