Walter Isaacson said his description of Elon Musk’s decision not to allow his satellite system to be used by Ukraine for an intended attack on a Russian fleet was misstated in the biography of the billionaire he authored.
Isaacson, in an excerpt of his book “Elon Musk” published in the Washington Post, had said Musk secretly told his engineers to turn off Starlink coverage within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast, so that Ukrainian drone subs couldn’t attack the Russian fleet in Sevastopol.
The author, first on Twitter and then in the op-ed, corrected this account: “To clarify on the Starlink issue: the Ukrainians THOUGHT coverage was enabled all the way to Crimea, but it was not. They asked Musk to enable it for their drone sub attack on the Russian fleet. Musk did not enable it, because he thought, probably correctly, that woul cause a major war.”
Musk himself quoted the tweet, and said Ukraine’s military didn’t read the fine print. “Our terms of service clearly prohibit Starlink for offensive military action, as we are a civilian system, so they were again asking for something that was expressly prohibited,” the world’s richest man wrote.
Ukraine officials have maintained the initial account — that Musk turned off the system — was closer to the truth.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about what the U.S. government will do about it. Blinken replied that he could not “speak to a specific episode” and said Starlink has been a vital tool for Ukrainians, and its military in particular, to communicate with each other. “What we would hope and expect is that that technology will remain fully available to the Ukrainians. It is vital to what they’re doing,” said Blinken.
Pressed by Tapper again, Blinken declined to comment on conversations that he said may or may not have happened.
“It sounds like Starlink is so important that the U.S. government doesn’t want to risk offending a capricious billionaire who did some things that I think in another situation the U.S. government might want to say something about,” said Tapper.