Elon Musk Takes Unpopular Stance on Russian Invasion of Ukraine

The billionaire CEO of Tesla wants to be pragmatic. He sees only one way to avoid a bigger disaster scenario.

Elon Musk seems to embrace harsh realities. 

The world’s richest man seems to have resolved that compromise is the best option in Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Musk was one of the first CEOs of a major global corporation to lend his support to Ukrainians, just days after Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24.

He then offered Starlink to the Ukrainians after Russia had destroyed their communications infrastructure. Starlink is the satellite-internet-connection service of Musk’s SpaceX. This service guarantees secure and independent access to the internet. It is difficult to hack. Service cuts are rare. 

Starlink provides access to the internet for residents of areas that are poorly served by the fixed and mobile networks of telecom operators. Thousands of small satellites circulating in low orbit — mainly 342 miles (550km) above Earth — enable the service.

From Idealism to Pragmatism

The system is used particularly in remote areas as well as in places that Russia has bombed. Starlink’s effectiveness foiled Russia’s war-communications plans, causing fury among Russia’s authorities to the point they threatened to retaliate. 

“Rough data on Starlink’s usage: around 150K active users per day. This is crucial support for Ukraine’s infrastructure and restoring the destroyed territories,” Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister and Digital Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said on May 2.

Fedorov explained that Starlink is now a kind of lifeline for many of his compatriots: “Ukraine will stay connected no matter what,” he added.

This gesture had infuriated the Russians and in particular the lieutenants of President Vladimir Putin, who had not hesitated to launch death threats against Musk.

“You will have to answer in an adult way, Elon, no matter how you turn on the fool,” the former head of Russia’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, said about Musk in May.

‘Nuclear War’

In view of all this, Musk has often been seen as an unconditional supporter of Ukraine. But now Ukrainians might not still see him that way, given that the Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc. Report CEO has put forward new proposals to end this war, which has killed thousands and displaced millions. 

The tech tycoon believes that in order to achieve peace, both Ukrainians and Russians must make compromises. And some of the compromises for Kyiv, like handing over Crimea to Russia and pledging never to join the European Union or NATO, are very bitter pills to swallow. 

But Musk, who has just organized a poll on his peace plan, believes that this is the price to pay if a possible nuclear war is to be avoided.

“Also worth noting that a possible, albeit unlikely, outcome from this conflict is nuclear war,” Musk argued on Twitter on Oct. 3.

That’s when a user and, presumably, supporter from Ukraine asked him: “Why give Starlink in the first place then?”

“The will of the people should decide whether they are part of Russia or Ukraine,” the billionaire said without answering to the question. “But Russia invaded areas that would unequivocally choose to be part of Ukraine.”

Musk the realist has taken over from Musk the idealist. This change seems hard to swallow for many Twitter users, including Ukrainians.

“Elon, you’re a cool guy and thanks for the Starlink but it’d be so very wonderful if you were to carry out votes on things that you know about,” tweeted the Kyiv Post, which describes itself as the top international source of English-language news about Ukraine since 1995. 

“We don’t carry out votes on apartheid and Nelson Mandela,” the news outlet added, referring to the fact that Musk was born in South Africa.

“Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk,” Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, commented.

Musk had already initiated a change of position the day before. In a tweet, the billionaire said that to achieve peace, “all sides” needed to back off the instinct for revenge.

“War always gives ample reason for vengeance for all sides,” Musk said  “Only by overcoming this instinct can there be peace.”

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