Russia appears to have issued a stern warning to Elon Musk’s Starlink initiative in a statement that could have grave consequences. The Starlink map shows that its coverage had spread to the majority of the world, with support in some countries already planned for the coming years. Russia, on the other hand, appears to be the largest country not on Starlink’s waiting list, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. During the ongoing Russian invasion, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov asked Musk in March for access to Starlink’s services.
Later, the SpaceX founder responded to Ukraine’s requests in a timely and friendly manner. Ukraine received satellite internet access in just two days, but not before Musk warned users of the potential dangers of using Starlink during wartime. While this may not have directly put SpaceX in Russia’s sights, Musk’s prompt compliance may have exacerbated the situation. The question now is whether Russia views Musk’s indirect involvement in assisting its opponents as a military threat that must be addressed, or if it is all just water under the bridge.
From Russia with … concern
The Russian Delegation appears to be treating SpaceX similarly, addressing its actions indirectly in a warning against the use of private satellites and their intervention. The Russian Delegation spoke out earlier this week in a translated statement about the “extremely dangerous trend” of using civilian and commercial space technologies for military purposes, claiming that it had “become apparent during the events in Ukraine.” Although the statement did not specifically mention any space company, it did remind the “United States and its allies” of the consequences of having the privatized sector involved in the country’s military activities.
According to the Russian Delegation, “quasi-civilian infrastructure” can be a “legitimate target for retaliation,” and “provocative use of civilian satellites is questionable under the Outer Space Treaty.” Furthermore, it emphasized that Western countries’ actions could jeopardize the long-term viability of peaceful space activities. So far, Musk has maintained a neutral stance on potential Russian propaganda spreading online. In a previous tweet, the SpaceX founder stated that Starlink will not censor Russian news sources because he is a “free speech absolutist.” It remains to be seen whether the Russian Delegation’s recent statement will coerce Starlink into withdrawing its internet coverage in Ukraine — or whether Russia will resort to extreme measures to do so itself.