Elon Musk, a dubious ally

The boss of Tesla and SpaceX aroused the ire of Ukraine by posting a poll on Twitter on Monday (October 3rd) calling on his 107 million followers to vote on his proposed “peace plan” for the Russian-Ukrainian war. . His proposals include recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, neutral country status for Ukraine, and the organization of referendums under the aegis of the United Nations in the four annexed Ukrainian regions on September 30 to determine whether whether or not they want to remain within Russia.

Visibly worried about a potential nuclear conflagration, Elon Musk says his plan will be “ very probably similar to the one whose conflict will ultimately result, saying the only unknown is the number of people who will lose their lives by then. “Russia has launched a partial mobilization, and it will switch to a general mobilization if Crimea is threatened”, he added, noting that victory for Ukraine in the event of an “all-out war” would be unlikely; because the population of Russia is “three times that of Ukraine”.

Unanimous criticism from the Ukrainian authorities

The billionaire’s messages earned him unanimous criticism from kyiv. “Which Elon Musk do you prefer: the one who supports Ukraine or the one who supports Russia? », retorted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a poll on Twitter – and to which 2 million Internet users responded, praising the first answer. Presidential adviser Mikhaïlo Podoliak also reacted, proposing “a better peace plan” including the “liberation of its territories by Ukraine, including the annexed Crimea” and an “demilitarization and denuclearization” of Russia. In a less chastised language, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrïï Melnyk, invited Elon Musk to “go fuck yourself”.

The recent annexation of the regions of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk by Russia on September 30 convinced kyiv to rule out any negotiations with the Russian Federation as long as Vladimir Putin is its president. The invitation to compromise formulated by Elon Musk may therefore have come as a surprise, especially given the direct material support he has provided to the Ukrainian army since the start of the invasion on February 24.

The American billionaire has provided Ukraine with Starlink kits, designed by his company SpaceX, which provide Ukrainian soldiers with a valuable internet connection via a “constellation” of low-orbit satellites. Just recently, on September 29, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense published a video in which several soldiers thanked Elon Musk for having provided them with this communication equipment.

Hubris and advertising promotion

Before Ukraine, the businessman had already sent Starlink kits in recent years to several regions of the world affected by natural disasters, such as after the volcanic eruption in the Tonga Islands in January 2022. In another register, he had also offered the help of his techno-industrial empire to design a “mini-submarine” aimed at rescuing Thai teenagers stuck in a cave in 2018.

These “humanitarian” interventions include an obvious advertising dimension, which could be criticized. Commentators thus affirm that the deployment of Starlink in Ukraine is also a means of counterbalancing the criticisms addressed by the scientific community to this constellation of satellites in low orbit, accused of obstructing the observation of space.

The promotional aspect of these actions is however not dissociable from the sincere belief of the billionaire in the capacity of technology to solve all the problems, affirms Olivier Lascar, author of the book Investigation of Elon Musk, the man who defies science (Ed. Alisio). The journalist also sees in his “peace plan” the sign of Elon Musk’s “hubris”. “It is characteristic of his feeling of omnipotence, and of a rather erratic character. He constantly claims to do things for the welfare of mankind. But we often have the impression that he shoots before and thinks after. The consequences are sometimes harmful for his businesses, but it maintains his character as a free man. »

“Of course we are pro-Ukraine”

Despite his material support for Ukraine, the businessman has thus distinguished himself by a casual, even ambiguous position vis-à-vis the conflict. On March 14, he challenged Vladimir Putin on Twitter by “single combat” whose stake would be the fate of Ukraine. On the same day, he published a drawing of a skinny man waving a Ukrainian flag against a background of LGBT flags, under the caption: “ I support the thing of the moment».

Faced with outraged reactions to his “peace plan”, the richest man in the world (223 billion dollars, according to the Bloomberg site) said on Tuesday October 4 that the provision of Starlink to Ukraine had already cost $80 million to SpaceX. “Our support for Russia is $0. Of course we are pro-Ukraine. » To a user taking him to task, the billionaire denied having the slightest ulterior motive: “You assume that I want to be popular. I do not care. »

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