A new biography of billionaire Elon Musk sheds light on how much control the tech mogul had over the war in Ukraine.
The book, written by biographer Walter Isaacson, says Mr. Musk secretly told his engineers last year to deactivate a Starlink network on the Crimean coast before a Ukrainian sneak attack against Russian forces in the area.
The Ukrainian military was using the satellites to communicate with anti-submarine drones. Once the Starlink network was deactivated, the submarines “washed ashore harmlessly,” according to the book.
Mr. Isaacson wrote that Mr. Musk was afraid of a “mini-Pearl Harbor” that could have resulted from the Ukranian attack. The SpaceX CEO felt that if the attack were successful, Russian forces would have countered with nuclear weapons.
The Ukrainian military command was furious after learning Mr. Musk cut off contact with the Starlink network and begged him to turn access back on. The deputy prime minister of Ukraine pleaded with Mr. Musk over text, detailing the necessity of the drones targeting the submarine. Although he was impressed with the technology, Mr. Musk still refused to restore connectivity in Crimea.
If Mr. Isaacson’s book, titled “Elon Musk,” is true, the episode illustrates the power the tech mogul has over communications in the war in Eastern Europe. Mr. Musk initially was enthusiastic about providing Ukraine with copious amounts of Starlink satellites after the Russian military disrupted the country’s communications systems shortly after its invasion in February 2022. After the Ukrainian military began utilizing the satellites, Mr. Musk changed his tune.
“Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars,” he told Mr. Isaacson. “It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes.”
Despite his reservations, Mr. Musk and SpaceX, which makes the satellites, continue to pay for the technology for use in Ukraine and consumer purposes.