One message and boom. A tweet of 275 characters was enough on Monday, October 3, for the American Elon Musk to get annoyed with all the Ukrainian employees, when until then he enjoyed a great aura for his positions. The billionaire, in fact, saw fit to publish a survey on a very personal interpretation of the war. A peace proposal between Kyiv and Moscow, he suggests, could be based on new referendums under UN supervision, Crimea’s surrender to Russia and a “neutral status” for Ukraine.
– Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is the will of the people.
– Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s error).
– Water supply to Crimea assured.
– Ukraine remains neutral.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
In short, it is a Ukrainian surrender at the main points of the conflict, with no Russian counterpart. The billionaire’s legions of fans did the rest, as with each of his outings, and the SpaceX founder quickly became the number one topic of discussion on social media. Above all, this message aroused very strong reactions in Kyiv.
“My very diplomatic response is to fuck you”, launched the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk. Mykhaïlo Podoliak, adviser to the Presidency, suggested in return the “release” of “Annexed Crimea” by Ukraine, one “demilitarization and denuclearization” from Russia, and international tests for the “war criminals”. Even President Volodymyr Zelensky joined the loop, with another poll: “Which Elon Musk do you prefer, the one who supports Ukraine or the one who supports Russia?” The reactions also crossed borders, to neighboring countries.
“Dear Elon Musk, when someone tries to steal your Tesla’s wheels, it doesn’t make them the owner of the wheels or the car.”Gitanas Nauseda, President of Lithuania
Relations, however, so far have been warm. And it all started with a tweet posted on February 26, two days after the start of the war. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhaïlo Fedorov spoke directly to the billionaire, asking him for satellite assistance to maintain communication services in the country. It only took about ten hours for SpaceX to fulfill this request from Kyiv. “The service is now active in Ukraine”had written Elon Musk, in a message that garnered more than 800,000 “likes”.
The Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals on the way.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 26, 2022
The explanation is actually a little less prosaic. In fact, Starlink had already been looking for a month and a half to deploy its system in Ukraine, he explained. (in English) a manager, Gwynne Shotwell, a few days later. Since then, the company has been waiting for authorization from the government, a request that has visibly fallen into oblivion. Fedorov’s tweet ended up being interpreted by SpaceX as an official document, unlocking the situation for both parties. And the first terminals arrived in Ukraine two days later, to the delight of the deputy prime minister.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 28, 2022
“Elon Musk has rockets to launch his own satellites, in a constellation he created, to broadcast the internet wherever he wants”explains Olivier Lascar, author of the book Investigation of Elon Musk, the man who defies science. Before Ukraine, SpaceX had already helped Tonga (in English), after the volcanic eruption that devastated the submarine communication cables. But “this vertical business” lead “important governance and monopoly issues”. actually blame “from the linesman or from the external point of view”nothing technically prevents him from helping whomever he wants in the future.
Until now, Elon Musk has always defended the same field. “I challenge Vladimir Putin to a one-on-one fight. Will you accept?”he notably wrote to the Russian president in mid-March. “Given the circumstances, it was a joke, at best distasteful, at worst obscene”, comments Olivier Lascar. But nothing surprising. With “arrogance and excess”the billionaire demiurge regularly shares his opinion, far beyond industry or technology. “He’s one of those characters who has little superego. There are few limits to his expression, and everything that goes through his brain slides into the keyboard.”
“Elon Musk is in a narrative where he really thinks he’s acting for the good of humanity.”Olivier Lascar, journalist for “Sciences et Avenir”
In late March, a team from franceinfo found a second commander of the Azov regiment in Mariupol. With Starlink he congratulated then, “we have an internet connection and we can use it with Messenger”Besides “secret military lines of communication”. In May, every day, the Starlink service provided internet to 150,000 people in Ukraine, according to Mykhailo Fedorov. who welcomed it “crucial support for Ukraine’s infrastructure and the restoration of destroyed territories.”
All it took was one night and one tweet to upset Elon Musk’s image in the country, going from space entrepreneur to shooting star. To the point, moreover, that Ukrainian TV presenter Serguiy Prytula, who regularly organizes fundraisers for the army, relays a kitten to “offer a history book” to the billionaire.
Responding to the criticism, Elon Musk advanced on Tuesday with financial arguments. “SpaceX has invested approximately $80 million for the launch and support of Starlink in Ukraine”he was justified. “Our support for Russia is $0. Of course we are on Ukraine’s side.” The billionaire also detailed the background to his thinking, judging that a Ukrainian attempt to retake Crimea would result in a high number of deaths, not to mention a likely failure and the risk of nuclear war.
In turn, the Russian media feasted on these exchanges between Kyiv and Elon Musk. Russian experts take turns interpreting the controversy, just as Russia is trying to quench the embers of internal dissension in the United States and Europe. “Anyone who proposes a peaceful solution is accused of cowardice” by kyiv, commented one of them, during an interview with propagandist Vladimir Soloviev. Even former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev commented on this, ironically proposing to award him a “extraordinary officer rank”.