Why Ukraine Relies on Starlink for Military Communications
In a recent email exchange, TPM Reader PT raised a crucial point regarding the Ukraine, Elon Musk’s Starlink, and the United States’ response to the situation. The US and its treaty allies possess their own secure satellite constellations to cater to their military communication needs, making Starlink unnecessary for them. However, Ukraine, not being a major military power, relies on Starlink, which is primarily designed as a civilian network.
From a technical standpoint, integrating Ukraine into the US systems would be relatively straightforward. However, such integration would bring the United States closer to becoming an active combatant against Russia, which is not a desired outcome. Additionally, there are security concerns that PT alludes to, which they are more familiar with than the author.
This underlying issue lies at the heart of the controversy surrounding Starlink and its use by Ukraine. The distinction between military and civilian networks becomes blurred because most countries across the world lack access to secure military satellite networks. This raises questions about the considerable power that individuals like Musk hold, which is equivalent to that of the most powerful states globally.
The major reason why Starlink is not central to US national security is that the US and its allies already possess dedicated satellite systems for secure communications. As a result, no contractual arrangement has been made between the US military/national security infrastructure and SpaceX, the company behind Starlink.
In theory, if the US and its allies desired it sufficiently, they could potentially share their military satellite communication systems with Ukraine. Yet, the lack of implementation could be attributed to various factors, such as concerns about technical information leaks or the possibility of ground systems for satellite communication being compromised.
Ukraine’s utilization of Starlink for its military needs highlights its reliance on an advanced civilian, non-classified communication system. While this may not be an ideal situation, it is comparable to Ukraine using non-military infrastructure, such as AT&T cellular networks, to control their drones. In such cases, they would be at the mercy of the critical infrastructure’s owner, in this instance, AT&T.
In conclusion, the reliance of Ukraine on Starlink for military communications stems from the lack of access to dedicated military satellite networks. The situation highlights the complexities surrounding the distinction between military and civilian networks and emphasizes the significant power individuals like Musk possess in shaping global communication systems.