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Tesla and SpaceX owner Elon Musk sparked a debate on social media by proposing a peace pact between Russia and Ukraine, provoking, among others, the response of President Volodymir Zelenski.
Amid escalating tensions between the two countries and the potential threat of a nuclear outcome, Elon Musk proposed a peace deal in which Ukraine would remain neutral, renouncing its aspirations to join NATO, in exchange for Russia letting the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporiyia decide on their annexation democratically.
“Ukraine-Russia peace,” Musk tweeted, then determined the conditions: “Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is will of the people. Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake). Water supply to Crimea assured. Ukraine remains neutral.”
The businessman went on to clarify that, while that would likely be the outcome, it is only a matter of “how mane die” before that happens. “Also worth noting that a possible, albeit unlikely, outcome from this conflict is nuclear war,” he warned.
Musk’s proposal contained a ballot, in which Twitter users could vote for or against. Out of more than 2,220,000 votes, 60.7% voted not to support the initiative, compared to 39.3% who approved.
In a new poll, Musk asked users whether “the will of the people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine,” to which a majority of 57.9% were in favor.
In a clarification addressed to another user, Musk explained his motivation for promoting an UN-supervised referendum in the annexed regions.
“The will of the people should decide whether they are part of Russia or Ukraine, but Russia invaded areas that would unequivocally choose to be part of Ukraine.”
Does Elon Musk’s proposal benefit Russia?
Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky responded to Musk’s proposal by suggesting that the American entrepreneur supported Russia, although he did so also in the form of a poll.
“Which Elon Musk do you like more? One who supports Ukraine or one who supports Russia” asked Zelenski. Of some 1,740,000 users who participated, 81.1 % voted for the first option.
Zelenski’s response was seen as provocative, to say the least. Musk replied that while he supports Ukraine, he is concerned about the threat posed to the world by an escalation in violence by Russia.
“I still very much support Ukraine, but am convinced that massive escalation of the war will cause great harm to Ukraine and possibly the world,” Musk said.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, who had expressed his rejection of Russia’s “illegal” annexation of Ukrainian territories, joined the conversation to give his opinion on Musk’s proposals.
“Dear Elon Musk, when someone tries to steal the wheels of your Tesla, it doesn’t make them legal owner of the car or of the wheels. Even though they claim both voted in favor of it. Just saying,” tweeted Nausėda.
The conversation got even more heated when the president of the Human Rights Foundation, Russia’s Garry Kasparov, pointed to Musk’s proposal as “moral idiocy,” a “repetition of Russian propaganda” and a “betrayal” of Ukraine.
“This is moral idiocy, repetition of Kremlin propaganda, a betrayal of Ukrainian courage & sacrifice, and puts a few minutes browsing Crimea on Wikipedia over the current horrific reality of Putin’s bloody war,” Kasparov tweeted.
The activist and former world chess champion accused Musk of wanting to “reward years of Putin’s war crimes with Ukrainian blood and land” and went on to “rebutting fallacies” about Ukraine in a thread.
“1) Ukraine was neutral in 2014 and Russia attacked & occupied it, invading again this year. Never again. 2) The greatest nuclear threat comes from concessions to Putin, not standing up to him. 3) The only real peace will be when Russia is defeated. 4) Legitimizing the change of national borders by force is the way of dictators, not the free world. 5) Ukrainian people and territory are not baubles to be traded or sold by third parties, let alone to a dictatorship committed to their ethnic cleansing and slaughter”, continuó Kasparov.
Musk responded by recalling that his companies donated internet satellite connection devices, Starlink, to Ukraine and even lost more than $80 million and put SpaceX “at serious risk” of a Russian cyberattack.
“What have you done besides tweet?” replied Musk.
Karparovsuggestedt that Musk intended to “spread Kremlin talking points” against Ukrainians who thanked him for providing them with Internet connectivity.
One user chimed in accusing Musk of lying, and attached an article from the Washington Post (WaPo) in which they claimed that the US government had paid millions to Musk’s companies to ship Starlink devices to Ukraine, but the billionaire clarified that the US only paid for “a small number of terminals,” but that he had paid for the “vast majority” of them.
“This is just another bs WaPo hit piece,” Musk assailed.
Later, entrepreneur David Sacks, former PayPal founding COO, came to Musk’s defense. “The fact that Elon Musk could be attacked as “pro-Russian” merely for suggesting a possible peace deal — even though he gave Starlink to the Ukrainian war effort — shows how warped and intolerant the public conversation has become,” he tweeted.
The Tesla owner took the opportunity to reiterate that his “obvious” support for Ukraine has cost him more than $80 million so far, while he has not contributed to Russia at all.
“Obviously, we are pro Ukraine,” Musk continued. “Trying to retake Crimea will cause massive death, probably fail & risk nuclear war. This would be terrible for Ukraine & Earth.h.”
One Twitter user questioned the proposal from the world’s richest man saying it “enrage many Ukrainians,” although she acknowledged the support Musk has offered Ukraine through Starlink.
Once again, Musk reiterated his concern about the number of people who would die if the war is prolonged and warned that he is not trying to gain popularity with his proposal.
“Russia is doing partial mobilization. They go to full war mobilization if Crimea is at risk. Death on both sides will be devastating. Russia has >3 times population of Ukraine, so victory for Ukraine is unlikely in total war. If you care about the people of Ukraine, seek peace.”
On the other hand, one of Zelenski’s presidential advisors, Ukrainian journalist Myjailo Podolyak, inferred that Musk was trying to “legitimize pseudo-referendums” on the annexation of the territories, “that took place at gunpoint under conditions of persecution, mass executions and torture.”
Musk replied to Podolyak that his suggestion was to “voting under UN supervision” or some “most trusted entity or country,” and gave the approach on Kosovo as an example. To another user, he said that because the referendum was “questionable,” he suggested repeating it under supervision.
Musk’s proposal opened a debate that demonstrated the diversity of opinions on how to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the consequences that any alternative to peace could leave on the entire world.
Tomás Lugo, journalist and writer. Born in Venezuela and graduated in Social Communication. Has written for international media outlets. Currently living in Colombia // Tomás Lugo, periodista y articulista. Nacido en Venezuela y graduado en Comunicación Social. Ha escrito para medios internacionales. Actualmente reside en Colombia.