White House comments on paying for Starlink service for Ukraine
The Pentagon and US allies are exploring all options to maintain Starlink satellite services for Ukraine after tycoon Elon Musk said he’s no longer willing to provide the communications for free, the White House press secretary has said.
During a briefing on Friday, Karine Jean-Pierre was asked if the Biden administration had considered Musk’s request for the Pentagon to foot the bill for satellite internet communications in Ukraine.
“Look, we understand the importance of these capabilities to ensure stable communications for Ukraine’s forces in particular,” Jean-Pierre responded.
Starlink, operated by Musk’s SpaceX company, has become the main communication tool for Ukraine’s forces since the start of the conflict with Russia.
According to the spokeswoman, the Pentagon is “working with allies and partners to look at all options on how best to support those needs identified by Ukraine specifically.” Further questions on the matter should be referred to the Department of Defense, she added.
Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh confirmed on Friday that “the department has been in communication with SpaceX regarding Starlink,” but declined to expand on the nature of those contacts.
The DoD understands the “fragility” of satellite communications and their importance for Ukraine “not just on the battlefield, but within the country itself,” Singh said.
On Thursday CNN published a letter, which it said SpaceX had sent to the Pentagon in September, demanding that it cover the cost of operating the system in Ukraine. The company is no longer “in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” the document read.
Musk reacted to the report by pointing out that his “competitors in space launch and communications,” Lockheed Martin and Boeing, had jointly received over $60 billion in defense contracts in 2021 alone.
The entrepreneur explained in a series of tweets how keeping up “warfront” communications was much more difficult and expensive. He said his aerospace company was allegedly forced to divert “massive resources” and was “burning” around $20 million per month on safeguarding the services from cyberattacks and jamming. “Russia is actively trying to kill Starlink,” Musk claimed, warning that it could well succeed in its efforts.
“Starlink is the primary communications system of the Ukrainian army on the war front. If anyone else wants this job, please be my guest,” he wrote.