Keep billionaires out of war

Jake Mireles, Staff Writer

In the fight for Ukraine’s freedom, one of the most vital tools being used by the Ukrainian military has been Starlink. Created by Elon Musk’s space development company SpaceX, Starlink is a satellite network used to provide high-speed broadband internet to many regions of the planet. Since its arrival late last spring, Starlink has been a vital element for Ukraine’s quick and light military tactics, and the country has relied heavily on its use to achieve success on the battlefield due to the destruction of the nation’s existing cellular and internet service infrastructure. This service also came very close to stopping coverage in Ukraine but for vastly different reasons. 

Elon Musk is a billionaire who has garnered a large following on many social media platforms and is known for being the owner of Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company and possibly Twitter. One thing he is not, however, is an expert on international relations. Despite this, Elon Musk has had conversations with both Ukrainian government officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin, firmly inserting himself in the midst of a geopolitical conflict in which he arguably has no place. This has not kept him from very publicly voicing his opinion on how the war should be settled to a very large audience, catching the attention of many Ukrainian and Russian officials. In a Tweet, Musk proposed a peace agreement with four key steps: Redo Russian referendums of annexed regions with UN supervision, formally recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, ensure water supply to Crimea is restored by the Ukrainian government and that Ukraine remains neutral. The proposition was quickly dismissed by both the Twitter users that voted in his poll, as well as Ukrainian officials. 

Soon after these developments, CNN ran an article covering a letter they obtained from SpaceX to the Pentagon. In the letter, SpaceX expressed that they were “not in a position to donate further terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” according to SpaceX’s director of government sales. SpaceX then asked the Pentagon to foot the bill for Starlink operations in Ukraine, threatening to end their contribution to the project. According to a Tweet, Musk claimed that “This operation has cost SpaceX [$80 million] & will exceed [$100 million] by [the end of the year],” despite a Washington Post investigation revealing the U.S. Government has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to send Starlink terminals to Ukraine. This conflicts with Musk’s statements on the matter and has cast doubt on if SpaceX really foots the entire $80 million bill. 

The developing situation with Starlink highlights a large flaw in the way Ukraine — and many other nations — govern. Relying on private, for-profit organizations and billionaires to provide essential services in many sectors can lead to grave consequences. They are not beholden to the well-being of those who depend on their vital services, but only to their own personal profit. Ukraine came very close to losing an instrumental tool at their disposal because they relied too heavily on the generosity of one unelected, profit-driven individual. This has happened countless times throughout history and will continue to happen. The world cannot rely on billionaires as necessary components of our existence.