The billionaire reportedly asked the Pentagon to help pay to keep the satellite internet service running in war-torn Ukraine.
Elon Musk said his SpaceX company can’t provide free satellite internet service to Ukraine “indefinitely” and has reportedly asked the Pentagon to contribute money to keep the Starlink service running.
Ukraine’s infrastructure has been heavily damaged by Russian attacks and the country’s civilians and military have come to rely on SpaceX’s internet terminals and constellation of Starlink satellites to communicate, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Musk said it was “unreasonable” for his company to continue providing the system without help.
“SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely and send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households,” Musk wrote on Twitter.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, on Wednesday called Starlink “an essential part of critical infrastructure.” He said the system helped restore connections after Russian missiles damaged energy and communications infrastructure.
CNN on Thursday reported that SpaceX told the Pentagon in September that the company would cut off the service unless the military provided funds for it. SpaceX reportedly told the Pentagon the service would cost $120 million for the rest of this year, and nearly $400 million for the next 12 months, according to CNN.
Musk has said SpaceX has spent about $80 million so far to deploy and maintain Starlink in Ukraine. The billionaire also said his company is losing about $20 million per month to operate the system and defend it against intensifying cyberattacks.
Musk’s company reportedly has already been getting outside help for Starlink in Ukraine. CNN said SpaceX told the Pentagon that over 80% of the 20,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine have been funded by others, including the U.S. government and Poland.
Musk has previously referenced his Starlink expenses in Ukraine as evidence of his support for the country against Russia’s invasion. The billionaire was condemned by Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as well as international leaders, for sharing polls on Twitter asking followers to weigh in on his suggestions for achieving “Ukraine-Russia peace.”
The provisions he listed included re-doing “elections” in the four Ukraine regions Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed after holding sham referendums, and also declaring Crimea, the territory Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, formally part of Russia.
The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany tweeted at Musk to “fuck off.”
“We’re just following his recommendation,” Musk replied to a follower, referencing CNN’s reporting about his company’s letters to the Pentagon.
Earlier this week, Musk denied a report by Ian Bremmer, the founder of the political risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group, that he spoke with Putin about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Bremmer doubled down on his account, writing: “I’ve long admired musk as a unique and world-changing entrepreneur, which i’ve said publicly. he’s not a geopolitics expert.”