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14 Sep, 2023 04:49

Musk gave control of Starlink to Pentagon – biographer

The billionaire was allegedly eager to step away from the service after refusing to help Kiev attack the Russian naval fleet in Crimea
Musk gave control of Starlink to Pentagon – biographer

Elon Musk gave the US military full control over a “certain amount of Starlink equipment” and can no longer influence how the system is being used to aid Kiev’s war effort, his biographer has revealed, claiming the tech mogul wished to end his involvement in a scheme that could “cause a nuclear war.”

Speaking to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius in an interview published on Wednesday, Musk biographer Walter Isaacson was asked about the billionaire’s decisions regarding Starlink, a constellation of satellites designed to provide global internet access and phone service, which has also been used by the Ukrainian military.

Musk was initially “critically supportive” of Kiev and allowed near-full access to the Starlink system, according to Ignatius, who wondered why the entrepreneur eventually became “very nervous” and began restricting the range of the satellites, including in sensitive regions such as Crimea.

“I've talked to him during this whole thing, and late one night, he said, ‘Why am I in this war?’ He said, ‘I, you know, created Starlink so people could chill and watch Netflix movies and play video games. I did not mean to create something that might cause a nuclear war,’” Isaacson recalled.

The author went on to say that Musk “decided to sell and give total control over a certain amount of Starlink equipment, Starlink services to the US military so that he no longer controls the geofencing,” adding that the SpaceX CEO “no longer controls the terms of use” for the satellites.

Isaacson said Musk had also developed a “military version of the Starlink” dubbed “Starshield,” suggesting that he hoped to pass off the project to the military.

“I think that was his way of saying, ‘I got to get out of this. Even I don't believe I should have this much power,’” the biographer continued.

Musk has come under fire over his refusal to help Ukrainian forces attack Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol – a revelation which only came to light in an excerpt from Isaacson’s biography published last week. The tech billionaire reportedly opted to prevent Kiev from using Starlink to guide naval drone strikes on Russian ships, fearing Moscow might use nuclear weapons in retaliation to what he called a “mini-Pearl Harbor.”

While Ukrainian Digital Transformation Minister Mikhail Fedorov purportedly demanded that Musk turn the system on, Musk refused outright, explaining that Kiev “is now going too far and inviting strategic defeat” by attacking Crimea.

The SpaceX CEO later claimed their services in the region around Crimea were not turned on at the time because his company was not allowed to provide coverage there due to US sanctions against Russia.