Elon Musk Makes An About Face On Starlink Funding For Ukraine

Elon Musk just performed another U-Turn on Ukraine's access to Starlink. The billionaire gave the country access to his satellite internet service shortly after Russia began its February invasion. With most of Ukraine's communication infrastructure in ruins, Starlink has been a lifeline. The system uses a number of terminals and a web of satellites to provide high speed broadband service, and was initially designed to bring modern internet speeds to underserved areas around the globe. Communication is vital in modern warfare, and losing Starlink would be a massive blow to the Ukrainian military effort.

While some individuals on social media have suggested Musk's threats to withdraw Ukraine's Starlink service are evidence of collaboration with Russia (via the Latin Times), Musk claimed to be withdrawing Starlink for financial reasons. He claims there are 20,000 Starlink terminals operating in Ukraine and couldĀ cost the company around $100 million to maintain by the end of the year. Challenges the company allegedly face include constant cyber attacks and blocking attempts from Russia, as well as other factors that come with running a service in an active warzone. The Tesla owner estimates that the operating costs of the terminals in Ukraine could be a hundred times greater than one operating in a regular household.

The trouble between Musk and Ukraine seemed to start when the tech entrepreneur tweeted a potential peace deal he believed could end the conflict with Russia. The plan produced a strong backlash from the Ukrainian government and its supporters around the world, while Russian leader Vladimir Putin called the idea "positive." Things declined from there with Musk blocking Starlink in the Crimea region, suggesting he could withdraw service from Ukraine entirely.

Musk agrees to keep Starlink going

Musk released a tweet shortly after 2 pm on Saturday saying "The hell with it ... even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we'll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free." The other companies he's referring to may be defense contractors that the U.S. Government regularly purchases weapons and ammunition from. These include Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing. The United States government and several European nations have supplied Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of equipment. Some of that equipment was part of those nations' defense stockpiles, while other items were purchased new. The supplies given to Ukraine include small arms and ammunition, both armed and reconnaissance drones, and defensive systems designed to counteract missiles, planes, and Russian drones.

However, it has been reported that the U.S. government is, in fact, contributing heavily to the upkeep of the Starlink system in Ukraine. Uncle Sam may be covering as much as 30% of the Eastern European nation's internet connectivity, and, along with its allies, could have paid for up to 85% of the terminals sent to the war torn country. While there is nothing to directly suggest the Tweet isn't serious, there is a chance Musk may again perform a U-turn on the Starlink issue. The world's richest man has a history of changing his mind in high-profile situations. His ongoing attempted acquisition of Twitter is recent evidence of that.