Ukraine Has “Direct Contact” With Musk Over Starlink, Funding fears Gone?: When CNN revealed the contents of letters sent by SpaceX to the Pentagon that the company could no longer continue to pay for the operation of Ukraine’s Starlink satellite internet systems, it sparked immediate concerns over Ukraine’s ability to connect with the world during the continued Russian invasion.
The letter was initially considered to be retaliation from Musk after Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk told the tech CEO to “f*ck off” over tweets about a possible peace deal between Moscow and Kyiv. Soon after the contents of the letter we published, however, Musk reneged on the plan and recommitted to continue funding the Starlink terminals himself.
Now, top Ukrainian officials are reportedly in direct contact with Musk to discuss the matter.
Ukraine Confirms Communication with Musk
In a recent interview, Ukrainian Defense Minister OIeksii Reznikov expressed confidence that the Starlink system will remain active.
“I know that we will not have a problem,” Reznikov said about keeping Starlink running, adding that there is “personal communication” between the SpaceX CEO and the Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov.
According to Reznikov, Fedorov is feeling “really positive” about the situation having spoken to Musk himself.
Will Musk Really Pay?
Musk’s hesitation to continue to pay for Starlink in Ukraine may well have been driven by the extraordinary cost, having previously stated that the cost would reach $100 million by the end of the year. However, it may also have indicated to the U.S. government that it’s time for them to pick up the tab.
According to two U.S. officials who spoke to Politico about the negotiations, the Pentagon has since looked into the possibility of paying for the satellite network by using a fund previously designated to purchase equipment and weapons.
Taking Musk at his word, however, SpaceX will continue to pay for the services until such time that the Pentagon picks up the tab, the war ends, or the costs become too much. In the short to medium term, however, Musk likely knows that he will make a lot of enemies should he decide to switch off the Starlink terminals without an alternative already agreed upon.
There are alternatives, too. In the same interview, Reznikov outlined three options to keep the terminals operational; the Pentagon, European governments, or private donors. Lithuanian Foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergies said on Monday that EU countries are already considering paying Musk to continue operating the network.
The question of whether Musk will continue to pay for the Starlink terminals, therefore, is less important than the question of whether the terminals will be paid for – and between the United States and Europe, they almost certainly will.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.