By Altaf Moti
Elon Musk is one of the most influential and controversial figures in the world today. He is the founder and CEO of SpaceX, X, and several other companies that are pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation. He is also a visionary and a philanthropist who wants to make the world a better place and solve humanity’s biggest challenges. However, he is also a human being who makes mistakes and faces dilemmas that test his morals and values.
One of the most recent and dramatic examples of this is his involvement in the war between Ukraine and Russia that started in 2022. The war was triggered by Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, a disputed peninsula that was part of Ukraine but was claimed by Russia. The war has caused thousands of deaths, millions of displacements, and widespread destruction and suffering.
Musk’s role in the war began when he agreed to install his Starlink satellite internet service in Ukraine, after the country suffered power outages and gaps in internet service due to Russia’s invasion. Starlink is a project by SpaceX that provides high-speed internet access to remote areas of the world using a constellation of thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth. Starlink has been used by various customers including the US military, rural communities and disaster relief organizations.
Musk responded to an appeal from Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on X to supply satellite-based communications to help resist Russia’s invasion. He said that Starlink would be “invaluable” for Ukraine’s war effort and thanked Musk for his “support of democracy and freedom”. He also promised that more satellites were “en route” and that he was working with the US government to expedite the process.
However, Musk’s role in the war took a dramatic turn when he intervened to stop a Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy in Crimea using his Starlink satellite internet network in September 2022. The details of this incident were revealed by a new biography of Musk by Walter Isaacson, which will be published in November 2023. The biography claims that Musk learned that the Ukrainian military was using Starlink to guide six underwater drones packed with explosives towards the Russian ships in Sevastopol, a port city in Crimea. Sevastopol is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which is a strategic asset for Russia’s naval power and regional influence.
According to the biography, Musk ordered his engineers to cut off Starlink service within 100 kilometers of Crimea, causing the drones to lose connectivity and wash ashore harmlessly. The biography says that Musk feared that the attack would be a “mini Pearl Harbor” and that the Russian ambassador to the US had warned that Russia would use nuclear weapons if Crimea was attacked.
However, Musk has denied some of the details in the biography and said that he did not deactivate Starlink, but rather refused a request from government authorities to activate it in the region where the attack was planned. He said that he did not want to be “explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation” and that he believed that Russia would respond with nuclear force if its fleet was destroyed. He also said that Starlink was not active in Crimea in the first place and that SpaceX did not have any involvement in the war.
Musk’s decision to interfere with the Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy in Crimea using his Starlink satellite internet network has sparked controversy and criticism from various parties. Ukrainian officials have accused Musk of interfering in their sovereignty and allowing Russia to continue its aggression and violence against Ukraine. They have also blamed Musk for the deaths of civilians and children caused by Russia’s missile attacks on Ukrainian cities. Some prominent critics of Russia, such as chess champion Garry Kasparov and human rights activist Bill Browder, have also condemned Musk’s decision and questioned his motives.
On the other hand, some supporters of Musk have praised him for preventing a nuclear war and saving millions of lives by using his technological innovation and influence to stop a dangerous and provocative attack. They have also applauded him for following his moral principles and conscience by refusing to be complicit in an act of war and conflict that would cause suffering and death to innocent people.
Musk’s decision also inspired some humor and satire from Ukraine itself. In January 2023, Ukraine made a joke of Elon’s peace formula, which was a proposal by Musk to end the war between Ukraine and Russia. The proposal consisted of four points: 1) Ukraine would recognize Crimea as part of Russia; 2) Russia would withdraw its troops from eastern Ukraine; 3) Ukraine would join the Eurasian Economic Union; and 4) Ukraine would adopt Russian as its official language.
Musk’s decision to interfere with the Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy in Crimea using his Starlink satellite internet network raises some important questions about the ethical and political implications of his actions. For example:
– Who has the right to decide how Starlink is used and who can access it?
– What are the responsibilities and liabilities of Starlink and SpaceX as providers of satellite internet service?
– How does Starlink’s service affect the balance of power and security in regions of conflict and instability?
– How should Starlink’s terms of service be enforced and monitored?
– How should Starlink’s service be regulated and governed by international law and norms?
These are some of the issues that might need to be addressed and resolved in the future, as Starlink’s service expands and becomes more widely available.
Musk’s decision also shows how technology can be used for both good and evil purposes, depending on who uses it and how they use it. Technology can be a tool for peace or war, for cooperation or conflict, for progress or destruction. Technology can also be a source of power or vulnerability, of opportunity or threat, of freedom or control. Technology can also be a reflection of human values and choices, of human creativity and innovation, of human wisdom and folly.
Musk’s decision to interfere with the Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy in Crimea using his Starlink satellite internet network is a story of technology, ethics, and politics. It is a story that reveals the complexity and ambiguity of human nature and human history. It is a story that challenges us to think critically and carefully about the impact and consequences of our actions and decisions. It is a story that invites us to imagine and create a better world for ourselves and others.