LUXEMBOURG — EU countries are discussing whether to contribute funding to ensure Ukrainians keep their access to vital Starlink internet services currently paid for by Tesla boss Elon Musk.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis disclosed the plans, which are at an early stage, in an interview with POLITICO on Monday.
The proposal follows warnings from Musk that his SpaceX rocket company could not indefinitely continue paying for Ukrainians to have access to Starlink internet services, amid suggestions that he wanted the US government to foot the bill. Musk, the world’s richest man, later changed his mind and said he would carry on funding the service.
But the scare raised concerns about the security of Ukraine’s continued access to a crucial telecommunications system that has played a vital role in their counteroffensives against Russian troops in occupied territories, as well as keeping the civilian population connected.
Speaking to POLITICO, Landsbergis suggests Ukraine’s internet access should not be left in the hands of a single “super-powerful” person who could “wake up one day and say, ‘This is no longer what I feel like doing and this is it.’ And the next day, Ukrainians might find themselves without the internet.”
He continued: “I figured that it’s probably way better to have this as a contractual agreement between, let’s say, a coalition of countries that could purchase a service from Mr. Musk, the Starlink service, and provide it to the Ukrainians and keep on providing it to Ukrainians.”
The topic made it into the discussion at the meeting of the 27 EU foreign ministers Monday, according to Landsbergis. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell raised the subject, “and certain countries also joined in,” the minister said, without specifying which countries. “If it happens in EU, it’s even better,” he said. “I don’t see why it couldn’t.”
This article is part of POLITICO Pro
The one-stop-shop solution for policy professionals fusing the depth of POLITICO journalism with the power of technology
Exclusive, breaking scoops and insights
Customized policy intelligence platform
A high-level public affairs network