Over the weekend, Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared on Jake Tapper’s CNN weekend show. As anyone could have predicted, Tapper asked Blinken about the new Elon Musk biography that reveals the defense contract oligarch unilaterally shut down Ukraine’s internet access in Russian-occupied Crimea to prevent a covert operation against the Russian fleet, which is launching attacks on civilians from there.
Tapper asked if there should be consequences for Musk’s freelance meddling that stopped a U.S. ally from attacking a legit military target, and Blinken repeatedly dodged the question. Here’s the back-and-forth from Rolling Stone (the only video I can find is on Musk’s site, but fuck him — the text conveys the gist):
TAPPER: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has recently confirmed a report that’s in Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Musk that last year Musk blocked access to his Starlink satellite network in Crimea in order to disrupt a major Ukrainian attack on the Russian navy there. In other words, Musk effectively sabotaged a military operation by Ukraine, a U.S. ally, against Russia, an aggressor country that invaded a U.S. ally. Should there be repercussions for that?
BLINKEN: Jake, I can’t speak to a specific episode. Here’s what I can tell you. Starlink has been a vital tool for the Ukrainians to be able to communicate with each other and particularly for the military to communicate in their effort to defend all of Ukraine’s territory. It remains so, and I would expect it to continue to be critical to their efforts. So what we would hope and expect is that that technology would remain fully available to Ukrainians. It is vital to what they’re doing.
TAPPER: I don’t know that you can’t speak to it. You won’t speak to it. Musk says he was reportedly afraid that Russia would retaliate with nuclear weapons. Musk says that’s based on his private discussions he had with senior Russian officials. Are you concerned that Musk is apparently conducting his own diplomatic outreach to the Russian government? Really, none of this concerns you?
BLINKEN: Jake, I can’t speak to conversations that may or may not have happened. I don’t know. I’m focused on the fact that the technology itself, Starlink, has been really important to the Ukrainians. It remains so, and it should continue to be part of what they’re able to call on to be able to communicate with themselves and again to have the military be able to communicate throughout this Russian aggression. We ourselves have always had to factor in what Russia may do in response to any given thing that we or others do or the Ukrainians do. And we have. But what’s so critical now is that Ukrainians have had real success over the past year.
TAPPER: It sounds like Starlink is so important that the U.S. government doesn’t want to risk offending a capricious billionaire who did some things that I think, in another situation, the U.S. might want to say something about.
I’m not Tapper’s #1 fan, but his questions on this topic were legit, and his conclusion — that the U.S. government is reluctant to confront Musk because Starlink access is vital to the war effort in Ukraine — seems fair too. In every response, Blinken underscores how important Starlink access is to Ukraine. He also states U.S. expectations, i.e., “we would hope and expect is that that technology would remain fully available to Ukrainians.”
Blinken is a smart, experienced diplomat. I assume he, his State employees and everyone in the Biden admin appreciate how dangerous the present situation is, with critical U.S. national security and space travel capabilities subject to the whims of an unstable person with grandiose visions of himself as humanity’s savior and who, oh by the way, has been peddling antisemitic tropes and amplifying Nazi scumbags on his site.
I have got to believe they know this. And I sure as shit HOPE they are executing a strategy behind the scenes to extricate us from this untenable situation, while in the meantime sending Blinken out to mumble “nice doggie” at the snarling wolf. To buy time. For Ukraine and for us.
This might sound like a non sequitur, but bear with me: If American democracy survives the Hydra-headed forces arrayed against it in the upcoming election, we need significant tax policy changes. I am fucking serious, y’all. To paraphrase something I read elsewhere, it’s not just about addressing economic inequality anymore. It’s about national sovereignty.