“And then shit…” There was adolescent sourness in Elon Musk’s statement on Saturday, October 15. After twenty-four hours of suspense, the businessman announced on Twitter that his company SpaceX was going “continue to finance the Ukrainian government” – by continuing to finance the Starlink Internet access network in Ukraine.
The richest man in the world had said the day before that SpaceX was not going to be able to continue financing “indefinitely” costs relating to Starlink in Ukraine. A statement with potentially serious consequences. Since the spring of 2022, these thousands of compact and mobile terminals connected to satellites in low orbit have become essential tools for the communications of the Ukrainian army, but also for the work of many administrations and NGOs in the country.
– Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is will of the people.
– Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake).
– Water supply to Crimea assured.
– Ukraine remains neutral.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
This reversal is only the latest development in a series of public exchanges and negotiations behind closed doors which have seen relations between the businessman and the Ukrainian government deteriorate significantly during the month of October. On the face side, Elon Musk scandalized the Ukrainian political class after he suggested on October 3 on Twitter that kyiv should give up taking back Crimea, in order to avoid a nuclear war. The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany had commented on the proposal by proposing to the billionaire “to go fuck yourself”.
Back to the status quo?
On the battery side, the boss of Tesla has been trying for weeks to limit the costs of Starlink in Ukraine for his company SpaceX, estimated at 80 million dollars since the start of the conflict, between the price of terminals and that of the Internet connection. According to the CNN channel, the billionaire would have asked the Pentagon to take charge of the bill. In vain.
Ukrainian authorities have welcomed Elon Musk’s decision to continue funding Starlink. “You chose the right side. Ukraine is grateful to you,” reacted Mykhaïlo Podolyak, influential adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Ukraine’s Digital Minister Mykhailo Fedorov previously played the appeasement by highlighting the major role of Starlink after Russian strikes against civilian infrastructure on October 10, and claiming that Elon Musk was among the largest private donors to the EU. ‘Ukraine.
Difficult for all that to speak of a return to the status quo. Ukrainian officials have not failed to draw their own conclusions from the sudden interruptions of Starlink in several places on the front during these days of tension with the billionaire. For Ukraine, the past sequence will also have demonstrated the risks of depending on a businessman for an area as crucial as military communications. Especially if he’s as versatile as Elon Musk.