The US Senate Armed Services Committee is investigating Elon Musk’s decision to not extend Starlink satellite internet coverage to enable a Ukraine attack on Russian warship near Crimea, Bloomberg has reported. “The committee is aggressively probing this issue from every angle,” said chairman Jack Reed in a statement, adding that the incident exposed “serious national-security liability issues.” The panel is still gathering information, and has not yet launched a formal investigation.
The Ukraine Starlink incident was revealed in an Elon Musk biography by Walter Isaacson, via a disputed excerpt stating that Musk deactivated Starlink access close to the Crimean coast to prevent a Ukrainian attack on the fleet.
However, Musk said that Starlink was not active in those areas because of US sanctions on Russia, so SpaceX had nothing to disable. In a recent podcast, he said would have extended Starlink to Crimea if President Biden had ordered him to do so — but he didn’t receive any such order.
Rather, Musk said he denied Ukraine’s request to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol. “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation,” Musk wrote on X. (The disputed excerpt will be changed in future copies of the book.)
Nevertheless, senators questioned why the decision was made by Musk, rather than government officials. “Neither Elon Musk, nor any private citizen, can have the last word when it comes to US national security,” Reed said. At the time of Ukraine’s request, SpaceX received no US payments for its Ukraine Starlink operations, but it now has Pentagon funding.
The probe was announced just ahead of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to the US and meeting with President Biden, set for next week. On top of Starlink, SpaceX is a major US contractor, launching spy satellites for the Defense Department .