Elon Musk has never been subtle when it comes to his emotions—and Friday morning he said he was flouncing out of a commitment to help Ukraine on the advice of a Kyiv diplomat who told him to “fuck off.”
Musk’s SpaceX says it will no longer pay for the Ukrainian military to use his Starlink internet system.
The truth is that his companies have been trying to wriggle off the hook for the multi-million dollar bill for months, according to a report by CNN.
News broke Thursday that SpaceX was no longer going to pay for the satellite communications network, which has been crucial in allowing Ukraine to fight back against Putin’s invasion.
When journalist Jason Jay Smart tweeted that the move came just days after a Ukrainian diplomat told Musk “fuck off”, Musk replied, “We’re just following his recommendation,” with a shrug emoji.
The previous tweet from the Ukraine ambassador to Germany came in response to Musk’s apparent suggestion that Ukraine accept major territorial losses and become “neutral” in order to placate Putin and find a peaceful end to the invasion. “Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you,” Andrij Melnyk wrote.
What is being “fucked off” is the bill for the 20,000 Starlink satellite terminals Musk’s company has installed to aid the Ukraine military—and a request from Ukraine for around 9,000 more.
The donation, Musk tweeted on Friday, has cost SpaceX some $80 million with a forecast of another $20 million by the end of 2022. SpaceX separately predicted that costs would reach nearly $400 million over the next 12 months, according to Politico.
A report by CNN revealed a pair of letters SpaceX sent in September to the Pentagon in which the company firmly suggested the U.S. pay the bill for any further terminals. “We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” the letter, seen by CNN, stated.
A second letter sent by a different SpaceX entity backed up the concern over continuing costs. “SpaceX faces terribly difficult decisions here,” the letter stated, according to CNN. “I do not think they have the financial ability to provide any additional terminals or service as requested by General Zaluzhniy.”
The donation, made by Musk days after Russia invaded the sovereign nation, is already funded in part by the U.S., U.K., and Poland. The terminals cost either $1,500 or $2,500, depending on capabilities, and Poland alone has funded around 9,000, SpaceX said previously.
The debacle comes as the Financial Times reported outages of the service, which they say has caused strategic problems for Ukraine's military on the battlefield.
As the Twitter battle rages, the real war continues with a number of diplomats weighing in. The former prime minister of Finland—a country on the border with Russia with a lot at stake in the war—urged Musk to pipe down. “The war in Ukraine is about life and death, freedom and control, democracy and autocracy,” he tweeted Friday. “Please stop causing mayhem. This is not a game. War is binary. Choose your side and stick to it. Ukraine needs all the help it can get to defeat Russian aggression.”