“How am I in this war?” Elon Musk asked this question out loud CNN reporting asked after reading an excerpt from author Walter Isaacson’s book. Isaacson has already written biographies about Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein.
The CNN article is based on reports from Isaacson’s new biography of billionaire Elon Musk, which reveals bitter details about his role in the Ukraine war. The excerpts from the book should be viewed with caution as CNN has not yet had the opportunity to investigate the yet to be published book. The biography is scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster on September 12th.
Musk has commented on some statements from the book on
Elon Musk secretly ordered his engineers last year to shut down his company’s Starlink satellite communications network near the coast of Crimea to disrupt a Ukrainian surprise attack on the Russian fleet, according to an excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s biography.
According to Isaacson, Ukrainian submarine drones loaded with explosives approached a Russian fleet and lost contact and “washed harmlessly ashore.” The decision to end communication is said to have arisen from Musk’s acute fear of a “mini Pearl Harbor”.
Fears that Russia would respond to a Ukrainian attack on Crimea with nuclear weapons were likely reinforced by Musk’s conversations with high-ranking Russian officials, Isaacson said.
After the CNN article was published, Musk denied that Starlink was active in that region at the time. “SpaceX hasn’t shut anything down,” he said on X.
“There has been an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink as far as Sevastopol,” he continued, without saying which government made the request. “Had I agreed to the request, SpaceX would have been explicitly involved in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”
Musk agreed to supply Ukraine with Starlink satellite terminals manufactured by SpaceX worth millions of dollars after the major Russian invasion in February 2022. These should be crucial to Ukraine’s military operations.
But when Ukraine began using Starlink terminals for offensive attacks against Russia, the billionaire began to question his decision. “Starlink was not intended to be involved in wars. “It was meant for people to watch Netflix and relax and go online for school and do good, peaceful things, not drone strikes,” Musk said of an excerpt from Isaacson’s book, according to CNN reporting.
Soon after the attacks on Russia, Musk called Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, and the Russian ambassador to the US to express his concerns, Isaacson writes.
The uncharted territory that Ukrainian and U.S. officials were navigating — relying on the favor of a billionaire — led to a discussion about who would continue to pay for the Starlink terminals. SpaceX informed the Pentagon that it would no longer cover the costs of the satellite equipment. Musk then announced via X that he would continue to finance the Ukrainian government free of charge.
Gwynne Shotwell, the president and COO of SpaceX, was angry about Musk’s about-face, according to Isaacson. “The Pentagon had a $145 million check ready to hand to me, literally,” Isaacson quotes Shotwell as saying.
According to Isaacson, SpaceX was ultimately able to negotiate an agreement with the U.S. and European governments. In 2023, payments will be made for a further 100,000 new satellite dishes.
Starlink’s importance has not diminished in this war.