Democrats question Pentagon on Musk disabling internet for Ukraine military

A trio of Democratic senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday over concerns that tech billionaire Elon Musk may have personally impacted the war in Ukraine and by extension, U.S. foreign policy.

Musk confirmed earlier this month that he refused access to his Starlink satellite internet service to the Ukrainian military when they wanted to use it for an offensive operation in Crimea last year.

“These allegations… raise serious concerns about whether Mr. Musk has personally intervened to undermine a key U.S. partner at a critical juncture — and if so, how and why he was allowed to do so, what actions the Department of Defense (DoD) will take or has taken to address these actions and prevent further dangerous meddling, and whether further legislation is needed for DoD to effectively pursue these ends,” Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote in the letter.

The allegations were first raised in a biography about Musk released in early September. The SpaceX CEO contested some specifics of the account, but confirmed that he did limit access to Starlink.

The senators asked Austin to fully investigate the extent of the allegations and find out what actually happened.

“The confusion over what actually happened during this Ukrainian attack – and Mr. Musk’s specific role – demands answers,” the senators wrote.

Specifically, the biography’s account states that when Ukraine asked for Starlink access for a drone strike on the Russian Navy in Sevastopol, Musk intervened.

The book claims he was concerned Russia would respond to an attack on their warships with a nuclear strike. Ukrainian officials begged him to turn the service on, but he refused, the author wrote.

“Such reports appear to indicate that Mr. Musk’s decision provided de facto protection to Russian military assets which continue to launch strikes on Ukrainian population centers and critical infrastructure and enforce a Russian embargo on grain shipments in the Black Sea,” the senator’s letter continued. “These actions have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Ukrainians and driven an increase in global food prices, bringing the world to the brink of a food security crisis.”

The revelation brought Musk criticism from Ukrainian authorities and praise from Russians, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Starlink internet system has been credited for assisting Ukraine’s advances, though they have been limited by Musk’s insistence that it not be used on offensive operations into Russia and threats the program would be shut down.

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