The businessman, who has just bought Twitter, does not hide his ambition to influence the course of history. Evidenced by your choices in Ukraine.
By Guerric Poncet
IElon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, announced Friday, October 28, is not just an extraordinary financial transaction. It is also up to the billionaire to acquire yet another tool to conduct his own foreign policy by taking control of a planetary platform that can promote the exercise of freedom of expression. Brilliant, contested, irritable and immensely wealthy, Elon Musk continues to steer his boat as he sees fit.
Man does not hide: he uses his companies to influence the course of history. By giving Ukraine access to its Starlink constellation, for example, he allowed the country’s army and population to continue to communicate effectively despite Russian attacks that devastated telecommunications infrastructure. While Russian soldiers were reduced to using unsecured phone lines because their encrypted systems no longer worked, the Ukrainian military equipped with Starlink terminals could videoconference with their headquarters or instantly download the latest satellite images of enemy positions.
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SpaceX depends on the Pentagon and NASA
“The influence of the private sector, and in particular of Starlink, is the great novelty of this war”, confided to us a high French official who studies the conflict closely. “Entrepreneurs can conduct their foreign policy, which is not always perfectly aligned with the interests of their country of origin,” he adds. So Elon Musk, after offering his communication system, threatened Ukraine in mid-October to cut off access to Starlink.
Officially, the bill has become too heavy for SpaceX: its emblematic boss, therefore, asked the Pentagon to finance the 20 million dollars monthly that the service costs. In fact, Elon Musk considers that certain territories legitimately belong to Russia, in particular Crimea, and that referendums should be organized, which he also writes in a tweet that provokes the fury of Kyiv. The boss then evolves into highly diplomatic terrain.
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After a few dozen hours of hesitation, Elon Musk withdraws his order, finally promising not to turn off the faucet. In a new tweet, he rages: “To hell with it! We will continue to fund the Ukrainian government while other companies receive billions for it. »
Even though Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions of dollars from taxpayers, we will continue to fund the government of Ukraine for free.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 15, 2022
Why such a twist? Perhaps the Pentagon reminded him that without its dozens of rocket launches ordered each year at exorbitant prices – some analysts even speak of subsidies in disguise – SpaceX would not have survived long. NASA, in turn, provided SpaceX with crucial data to develop its rocket engines.
The private enters the international game
This allowed Elon Musk to win markets against private space launch sector competitors such as Blue Origin or United Launch Alliance, and save hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development thanks to work done in previous decades with federal funds.
Which puts into perspective the Ukrainian account of a few tens of millions of dollars, which allows massive aid granted by the White House (over 20 billion dollars since 2014) to be used much more effectively by Kyiv. This time, Elon Musk has not been able to apply his own foreign policy, but he has entered the diplomatic game and has powerful cards in his hand for the upcoming battles.
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