Elon Musk is a tech billionaire who may be moving closer to ending his Twitter feud. He renewed Tuesday his $44 million deal to acquire control of the social networking site. However, the same day he began another feud – this time with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, after Musk offered his solution to ending the war, even as Ukraine’s forces were engaged in a successful counter-offensive.
Tesla CEO, Musk, took to Twitter and suggested that in order for Russia to negotiate a peaceful solution, Kyiv’s government should surrender territory Moscow had captured in 2014. Musk argued further that Ukraine should be neutral and drop its bid to become NATO. He also requested that the United Nations oversee the holding of a referendum on the territories Russia had sought to annexe.
Musk posted a tweet on Twitter arguing that Crimea was historically Russian until it was handed to Ukraine in the 1950s by the Soviet Union. A long-running war that ended in a Ukrainian victory would be unsustainable, Musk suggested. Musk launched a Twitter survey asking users to decide whether the territories should be part of Ukraine, or Russian territory.
Zelensky reacted negatively to these remarks, accusing them of being proKremlin. Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader, criticized them for being pro-Kremlin and promised to return all Russian territories including Crimea. His own twitter poll asked him the question “Which Elon Musk would you prefer more?” There were two options: “One that supports Ukraine” or “One which supports Russia.”
Musk swiftly responded that he still supports Ukraine but was convinced by the massive escalation to war, which would cause severe harm to Ukraine and the entire world.
The tech entrepreneur actually has been a significant help to Ukraine.
Musk’s SpaceX business shared their Starlink satellite network that delivers Internet access to remote areas. Zelensky thanked Musk personally for providing equipment which he claimed would allow him to maintain communication in areas under attack. Musk, however, announced in April that Starlink was a “free speech absolutist”. This would allow Russian state media outlets to spread misinformation and propaganda about the war in Ukraine.
Russia Weighed In
Also, Tuesday saw the Kremlin join the social media conversation.
Dmitry Peskov (Kremlin spokesperson) said via Twitter that Elon Musk was trying to find a peaceful solution. People have spoken out about the referendums and we can’t do anything but respect that.
The United States and most Western governments have refused to recognize the results of the recent referendums, arguing that residents were forced to vote – oftentimes at gunpoint.
Musk’s comments align with the idea of realpolitik, where one acts primarily on factors and circumstances rather than strictly adhering to ideological concepts or moral or ethical premises.
Musk’s statements are not wrong, but he violated a rule that the D.C. security establishment has deemed illegitimate: “(admitting) Ukraine might have to give up some things in order to achieve peace,” stated Harry J. Kazianis (senior editor at 19FortyFive, president of Rogue States Project).
Kazianis sent an email saying that while it is possible for that to happen, “Surely that would be terrible,” but Musk is helping to create the conditions for what might end up being a flawed peace. In real life, wars do not end in fairytales. All sides return from the battlefields healthy and there is peace where everyone wins.
The fighting might stop but there won’t be permanent peace.
“What I think Ukraine and many others are reacting to is the reality that at best the conflict will be the biggest frozen one ever – think the Korean War ending but worse – or a peace deal that neither side loves and could see a war start again in a few years,” Kazianis continued. Kazianis said that Musk tapped into this raw nerve and, while he may be attacked, he at least started a discussion about how to end the war. That is definitely better that talking endlessly about nuclear war.
Social Media Is The Wrong Forum
Many argue that Musk’s recommendations for how to end the war were not appropriately presented on social media (especially Twitter).
You can clearly see that Zelensky viewed this as an important information space event to which he had to personally respond as President. Matthew Schmidt, an associate professor of political science and national security at Yale University said that Zelensky is very media-savvy.
Schmidt added, “He is aware that Musk’s tweet can gain momentum and change the narrative towards forcing Ukraine to negociate with someone who wants their country destroyed.”
Musk has a huge following, but he remains a businessman and tech entrepreneur – not an expert in geopolitics, or even international negotiations. He could be a threat to peace efforts by offering his advice.
“This is the risk of social media – it can give anyone with a following, or who has the chance of getting one by going viral, the power to shape the way a global audience understands an event,” suggested Schmidt. They can make decisions on matters they are not able to control. Musk is not an elected official for Ukraine. Musk has no rights to determine their future.