Elon Musk Tells the Pentagon He Spoke With Putin Directly
Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Elon Musk’s company, Starlink, has since played a pivotal role in the war. The United States government had no issues with Musk’s intervention in the war – until new information came to light.
It turns out that the tech billionaire had been in touch with the Russian president Vladimir Putin, which Musk admitted himself. However, Pentagon officials found this out only recently and are not entirely pleased with this interaction; let’s see why.
Few People Receive Calls from the Kremlin
Colin Kahl was the Under-Secretary of Defense for policy at the Pentagon. It just so happens that Kahl was assigned by Pentagon higher-ups to discuss with Musk and guarantee Starlink internet connectivity for Ukrainian forces.
During the phone conversation, in what seemed like a slip, Musk told Kahl that he had recently been on a call with Putin. However, Kahl was unable to find out the details of the convo.
Musk, the Techno-Diplomat
Kahl would later mention Musk’s comment on Putin to other Pentagon officials, which left them shocked. So, the unanswered question for these officials is: “Has Musk become pro-Russia?”
Musk, on the other hand, tried to clear the air in some follow-up tweets, basically stating that he’s just a liberal businessman. However, netizens don’t buy this, as they believe Musk fears he would be in Russia’s bad books due to their heavy losses—thanks in part to the Starlink connectivity.
Doing a Dreaded Assignment
Before Kahl put the earlier mentioned call through to Musk, reports had filtered back from the Ukrainian frontlines that their forces were losing access to the internet as the troops proceeded into disputed territory.
Starlink provided Ukraine with internet access after its telecom infrastructure was destroyed during the invasion. However, the company turned on the geofencing feature on the satellite kits donated to the Ukrainians.
Static Noise in Crimea
Basically, geofencing cuts off the internet when you are connecting from a restricted area. This means that when Ukrainian soldiers veer outside of the allowed location, they would essentially lose internet connectivity.
So, when Ukraine went on the offensive and crossed into Crimea—a disputed area—they lost internet connection and the ability for their troops to communicate effectively.
The Pentagon is Rooting for Ukraine
Advancing in war with limited comms over short-range radio left the Ukrainian troops and their commanders in vulnerable situations. For a country that has the support of the US and NATO, that’s pretty unacceptable.
This issue made the Pentagon wade in and have Kahl call Musk. The goal was to arrive at an agreement that would ensure Musk’s company, Starlink, does not limit the internet access of Ukrainian forces.
Just a Humanitarian Trying to Help?
In an interview with the New Yorker, Colin Kahl said he’s of the opinion that Musk is starting to chicken out. According to him, Musk does not want to make enemies in the Kremlin.
Likewise, Kahl feels Musk’s initial donation of Starlink internet kits to Ukraine was probably a decision influenced by sentiments. Musk probably never expected that it would have so much influence on the war’s outcome.
Diggings by the Media Moles
True to their calling, members of the press have since attempted to find out details of Musk’s phone conversation with Putin. However, Musk did not reply to emails asking for details of that one-time interaction.
Colin Kahl, on the other hand, has moved on with his life after his Pentagon appointment ended. He has since taken up a teaching position at Stanford University.
Respite from the Defense Department
Unlike Kahl and Musk, the PR arm of the Defense Department did respond to an email asking about the likely interventions of the US government in Starlink’s supply of internet connectivity to Ukrainian troops.
Jeff Jurgensen, their spokesperson, mentioned that “it is not unlike the Pentagon to enter into contracts for such services to be made available to their allies.”
At the Mercy of Starlink Connectivity
All along, Musk had been voluntarily providing internet connectivity for Ukrainian forces and could withdraw it whenever he felt like it. Indeed, not long ago, Starlink threatened to disconnect Ukrainians from their network, citing operational costs.
So, the Pentagon is trying to enter into a contract where the services are bankrolled by the US and other Ukrainian allies. This way, critical communication infrastructure for Ukrainian forces won’t be left to the whims of a businessman.
Is Musk Really in Bed With the Russians?
Elon Musk continues making efforts to counter claims that he has close ties with Putin and the Kremlin. Musk’s conversation with Putin did not cause much backlash compared to his tweets which suggested Putin is a pacifist who’s open to peace talks.
Interestingly, Volodymr Zelinsky—Ukraine’s president—is one of the many people who called Musk out for airing these views about Putin.
Will Musk Turn His Back on Ukraine?
Starlink had earlier requested that the US and its other pro-Ukraine allies foot some of the bills for providing internet connectivity to the invaded country. But not long after, Musk seemed to have changed his mind.
In a tweet, Musk announced that he will continue funding the service. However, the Pentagon stood their ground by asking for a paid contract. We are sure Pentagon officials are wary of Musk holding Ukrainian forces to ransom in the near future.