In October 2022, as the Russo-Ukrainian war waged on, Musk abruptly threatened to cease funding the use of Starlink satellites by Ukraine, as reported by The Washington Post. Given the nation’s heavy reliance on those satellites for its war efforts, such a move would have crippled Ukraine’s defenses and provided a major tactical advantage to Russia.
Even more shockingly, the threat seemed to be a response to a Ukrainian ambassador who insulted him on Twitter. After Musk ran a Twitter poll suggesting the conflict be ended via a UN-supervised vote, and that the contested Crimea region remain part of Russia, Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, told Musk, “F— off is my very diplomatic reply to you.” Shortly after threatening to cut Ukraine off from the Starlink network, Musk tweeted, “We’re just following his recommendation.”
But only a day later, Musk rescinded his threat, promising to continue funding with a bitter tweet that read, “The hell with it … even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free” (via The New York Times). The Times speculated that Musk’s about-face was in response to international rebuke for his threat, and noted that SpaceX had only donated 3,000 satellites to the Ukrainian effort, while the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland footed the bill for almost 17,000.
The incident was a bizarre instance of a tech company becoming mired in international geopolitics, and the world may never know how close Musk came to handing Russia its desired annexation of Ukraine.