WASHINGTON — The chief executive officer of Palantir Technologies Inc. quietly visited Ukraine this week, meeting with the country’s president and other leaders in Kyiv to discuss defense cooperation and the opening of an office for the data analytics company in the war-torn country.
CEO Alex Karp’s trip to Eastern Europe and subsequent exchange with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov was disclosed June 2. Photos and a summary of the trip were shared by Zelenskyy’s office and posted on social media.
The visit to the capital is the first made by an executive of a major Western company since Russia launched its bloody invasion in February. A handful of government officials including U.S. first lady Jill Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson have visited, as well.
Zelenskyy in a statement described the in-person dialogue as a “positive signal that despite a full-scale war, Ukraine is open to business and ready for cooperation.” He said he is “delighted that Palantir is ready to invest in Ukraine and help us in the fight against Russia on the digital frontline.”
The talks addressed Russian cyberattacks, which preceded the invasion and continue to jumble networks, as well as enhancing the Ukrainian military’s digital portfolio. The U.S. has reinforced Ukrainian defenses, including in cyberspace.
“We are actively working not only on the digital blockade of the Russian Federation, but also to attract top international companies to Ukraine. This is one of our priorities today,” Fedorov said in a statement Thursday. “Modern warfare has changed the rules, and technology plays a big role in it.”
Palantir in a tweet said it was honored to take part in the talks about the ongoing war, collaboration and “the pivotal role of software to Western security.” A spokesperson offered similar comments Thursday.
The Palo Alto-based company, known for its data analytics and software development capability, went public in 2020. It launched using seed money from the CIA.
Palantir has won contracts with government organizations, banks, and other private institutions and in recent years made headway with the U.S. military following a legal spat with the Army.
Several years ago, Palantir sued the Army over its procurement plans for the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, or DCGS-A, an intelligence analysis platform. The company maintained that it could provide a less expensive and more capable solution to the service and urged the Army to abandon its decision to internally develop the system.
Through the 2016 lawsuit, Palantir revealed a major culture clash behind the scenes between service leadership and company executives. The Army was forced to reevaluate its approach after Palantir won in court. And, after a new competition, Palantir is providing tactical level DCGS-A systems to the service.
Palantir is embracing its work within the Defense Department, setting up a splashy booth at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., in 2018. It has repeated its attendance since.
The company has also been involved with Project Maven, a Pentagon effort to develop artificial intelligence capabilities that could help, for instance, flag and decipher aerial surveillance footage. The point of the project is to use AI and machine-learning to shorten the decision-making timeline on the battlefield.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.