First he made Starlink available, then he threatened to withdraw the free service, and soon after, he returned: multimillionaire Elon Musk knows the influence he has in Ukraine and “has made a brilliant move”. That’s a very sensitive move when it comes to war – especially this war where Musk’s Starlink really (but really) makes a difference on the battlefield
The European Union is considering contributing funding to ensure Ukrainians retain access to Starlink’s essential service, currently provided by Elon Musk. Although the proposal is still at an early stage, the discussion comes at a time when the technology mogul has warned that his space agency SpaceX cannot continue to pay unlimited for Ukrainians to access the Starlink internet service. website Politico has even suggested to Elon Musk that the US government should foot the bill.
Whoever is also the richest man in the world eventually changed his mind and guaranteed that he would continue to fund the service. But the fear raised concerns about the security of Ukraine’s continued access to a crucial telecommunications system that played a vital role in its counteroffensive. After all, this free internet network that Ukraine has spread throughout the territory has allowed the population to continue to report to the world and the military and show images about what is happening on the ground. And that, incidentally, was how the Ukrainians “fighted most of the Russian tank columns” in the first six months of the war.
To Politico, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Gabrielius Landsbergis, suggested that Ukraine’s internet access should not be left in the hands of a single “super-powered” person who “can wake up one day and say: this is not what I want to do anymore and that is it” and the next day Ukrainians can be without the internet”.
No Starlink, capitulation
But what if Elon Musk decides to change his mind? In short, “taking the internet out of Ukraine sends it to the level of Russia and automatically cancels it,” says cybersecurity and telecommunications specialist Nuno Mateus-Coelho. This is because, he says, Ukraine is heavily dependent on this resource and has no alternatives. “At the moment, the great advantage that the Ukrainians have over the Russians is that they are a cyber army,” emphasizes Nuno Mateus-Coelho, in a position also shared by Major General Agostinho Costa, who adds that “Starlink has an operational use that allows Ukraine to digitize the war”.
Let’s imagine a war scenario where Ukrainian troops are in the middle of the field and want to activate a drone to attack an armed car and be able to communicate using computers – namely a live broadcast of images. “Without Starlink, this is not possible,” explains Nuno Mateus-Coelho, explaining that most of the Ukrainian territory has lost 4G network infrastructure. “If Ukrainian troops go to Donbass, without a mobile network, they cannot teleguide this equipment. At the same time, they also cannot make telephone calls or maintain secrecy in communications.”
Starlink comes to enable a secure network across the entire territory. And on top of this resource, the entire Ukrainian war structure is based – “even the way the Ukrainian government communicates,” explains Nuno-Mateus Coelho, leaving a reflection: “How does a simple antenna manage to transmit the light, water, and armies. .. To take Starlink out of Ukraine is capitulation. There is no alternative.”
And this is where the West comes in. Should the EU bear the costs of Starlink? In fact, it is an American company owned by a US citizen. “The Starlink communication system, above all, offers an informational superiority over Ukraine, which represents a game changer that it cannot live without – and the West will not allow it to be accessed again,” said Major General Agostinho Costa.
The Major General recalls that the United States supports Ukraine not only with the Starlink satellite network, but also with the JSTARS system – which allows monitoring of the battlefield and proper perception of the area of operations. “That varies from operational to tactical command. They know how, when and where to attack.” So much so that during the counter-offensive in Kharkiv, a series of laser beams were aimed at the sky.
“When Lyman was captured, there was evidence of a certain slump in the Ukrainian military, which reported failures in the Starlink system,” the major general said, noting that “among this, Elon Musk appears as some sort of peace prince and proposed to hold elections in Donbass”.
First he made Starlink available, then he threatened to withdraw the free service, then immediately came back. “Elon Musk makes a genius move, Twitter style,” says Nuno Mateus-Coelho, “but what he really wants is to get paid.” And we’re talking millions of dollars.
Major General Agostinho Costa emphasizes that “we need to understand what goes beyond the message”: SpaceX has invested about $80 million to ensure broadband communications with the Ukrainian armed forces — costs Elon Musk says could reach $400 million by the end of next year. year. “This is pressure on the US government. Elon Musk’s problem is that now that the system is the target of Russian attacks, who pays for the damage?”