Elon Musk Defends Restricting Military Use of Starlink in Ukraine, Cites Possible Escalation of Conflict
Elon Musk Defends Restricting Military Use of Starlink in Ukraine, Cites Possible Escalation of Conflict

By Katabella Roberts

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has defended his company’s decision to limit Ukraine’s use of the company’s Starlink satellite internet service for military purposes, noting that the spacecraft manufacturer and communications company will not actively enable an escalation in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Musk was responding to former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who called on the Tesla CEO on Feb. 11 to “restore the full functionality” of Starlink satellites, adding that Ukraine “desperately needs your continued support.”

“Defense from a genocidal invasion is not an offensive capability. It’s survival. Innocent lives will be lost. You can help. Thank you,” Kelly wrote on Twitter.

However, Musk replied that the Starlink satellite communication network is playing a key role in ensuring communication in Ukraine but should not be used for escalation that could lead to a World War.

“You’re smart enough not to swallow media and other propaganda bs,” Musk responded. “Starlink is the communication backbone of Ukraine, especially at the front lines, where almost all other Internet connectivity has been destroyed. But we will not enable escalation of conflict that may lead to WW3.”

Musk’s response comes after SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said on Feb. 9 that the company was restricting Ukraine’s military from using Starlink to control drones in the region for military purposes against Russia.

Shotwell, SpaceX’s chief operating officer, said during a conference in Washington that the company’s Starlink satellite internet service was “never meant to be weaponized,” but that “Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”

Shotwell referenced reports that Ukraine’s military had used the Starlink service to control drones and noted that Ukraine’s agreement with SpaceX was intended for humanitarian purposes such as providing broadband internet to civilians well as hospitals and banks after Russian forced destroyed much of the country’s telecommunications infrastructure.

“There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that,” she said, referring to the reports. “There are things that we can do, and have done.”

“We know the military is using them for comms, and that’s ok,” Shotwell added. “But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes.”

Ukraine Hits Out at SpaceX

Following Shotwell’s announcement, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wrote on Twitter that SpaceX, as well as other companies, needs to decide whether it is “on the side of Ukraine and the right to freedom” or on “Russia’s side & its ‘right’ to kill & seize territories.”

“SpaceX (Starlink) and Mrs. Shotwell should choose a specific option,” Podolyak added.

Musk’s SpaceX has been providing internet to Ukraine free of charge through Starlink’s satellite internet service since the early days of the invasion but has stressed that it is designed for peaceful uses only.

Despite Shotwell’s recent announcement, some Ukrainian soldiers told The Washington Post that the service is working largely as normal for front-line communications but there have been some reports of issues with terminals attached to strike drones.

“We’ve had no issues so far, thank God,” Lt. Oleksandr Matviyenko, the commander of a drone-reconnaissance unit working around Bakhmut, told the publication.

The Epoch Times has contacted SpaceX for comment.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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