Secretary of State Antony Blinken evaded pointed questions from CNN’s Jake Tapper about news that billionaire Elon Musk interfered with a planned Ukrainian attack against Russia’s invading navy.
Days ago, Elon Musk admitted he interfered with Ukraine’s military communications in 2022 by ensuring Starlink — the satellite communications network he owns — did not work in an area where Ukraine wanted to launch an attack on Russian invaders. According to Walter Isaacson’s upcoming biography of the billionaire, Musk blocked Starlink communications along the Crimean coast where Ukrainian submarines were poised to attack Russia’s naval fleet. Because they lost satellite communications, the Ukrainian subs “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly” and Russia continued its missile attacks on Ukrainian cities.
“As a result, civilians, children are being killed. This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and big ego,” Mykhailo Podolyak, senior adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on X, condemning Musk’s actions.
Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Tapper asked Blinken about Musk’s interference. “SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has recently confirmed a report that’s in Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Musk that last year Musk blocked access to his Starlink satellite network in Crimea in order to disrupt a major Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy there,” Tapper said. “In other words, Musk effectively sabotaged a military operation by Ukraine, a U.S. ally, against Russia, an aggressor country that invaded a U.S. ally. Should there be repercussions for that?”
“Jake, I can’t speak to a specific episode,” Blinken replied. “Here’s what I can tell you. Starlink has been a vital tool for the Ukrainians to be able to communicate with each other and particularly for the military to communicate in their effort to defend all of Ukraine’s territory. It remains so, and I would expect it to continue to be critical to their efforts. So what we would hope and expect is that that technology would remain fully available to Ukrainians. It is vital to what they’re doing.”
As Tapper pointed out, Blinken did not give a straight answer to his question about whether Musk should suffer “repercussions” for essentially blocking Ukraine’s military efforts.
“I don’t know that you can’t speak to it. You won’t speak to it,” Tapper said. “Musk says he was reportedly afraid that Russia would retaliate with nuclear weapons. Musk says that’s based on his private discussions he had with senior Russian officials. Are you concerned that Musk is apparently conducting his own diplomatic outreach to the Russian government? Really, none of this concerns you?”
Musk has boasted of his private conversations with high-ranking Russian military officers and also claims to have talked directly with Putin himself, The New Yorker reported last month.
“Jake, I can’t speak to conversations that may or may not have happened. I don’t know,” Blinken responded. “I’m focused on the fact that the technology itself, Starlink, has been really important to the Ukrainians. It remains so, and it should continue to be part of what they’re able to call on to be able to communicate with themselves and again to have the military be able to communicate throughout this Russian aggression. We ourselves have always had to factor in what Russia may do in response to any given thing that we or others do or the Ukrainians do. And we have. But what’s so critical now is that Ukrainians have had real success over the past year.”
Later in the interview, Tapper confronted Blinken again. “It sounds like Starlink is so important that the U.S. government doesn’t want to risk offending a capricious billionaire who did some things that I think, in another situation, the U.S. might want to say something about.”