Pentagon: It’s up to SpaceX to decide what to do about Starlink in Ukraine

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Ryder: 'What an individual company may or may not do in any particular corner of the world of course is incumbent on that company to decide'

WASHINGTON — Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said DoD had no comment on Elon Musk’s announcement on Monday that SpaceX will continue to pick up the tab for Starlink satellite internet service in Ukraine.

“What an individual company may or may not do in any particular corner of the world of course is incumbent on that company to decide and do,” Ryder told reporters at a news conference Oct. 18. 

Ryder’s comments follow a series of tweets and news reports over the weekend about the possibility that SpaceX could cut off Starlink communications services in Ukraine unless the U.S. government agrees to foot the bill. 

After arguing that providing Starlink internet service in Ukraine was becoming too expensive for SpaceX and the government should help, Musk made an abrupt about-face on Monday, tweeting that “SpaceX has already withdrawn its request for funding.”

Musk said 25,300 terminals were sent to Ukraine but only 10,630 are paying for service. The number presumably includes 5,000 terminals that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) delivered to the government of Ukraine as part of a public-private partnership with SpaceX.

Ryder declined to comment on Musk’s recent tweets. “In regards to any statements that have been made by the company in terms of their business strategy or focus, I’d obviously refer you to them.”

The Department of Defense, meanwhile, “does continue to discuss various matters with SpaceX. to include Starlink,” Ryder added. He confirmed that so far DoD has not paid SpaceX any money for Starlink services in Ukraine. 

“But when it comes to the broader issue of providing satellite communication to Ukraine, we are in discussions with SpaceX as well as other companies to look at how best to provide that service,” said Ryder.

He noted that for any type of service that receives DoD funding, “there’s a process by which we go through to look at contracting and acquisition requirements and how we would do that.”

The Pentagon said it has committed more than $18.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including approximately $17.6 billion since Russia’s invasion.