Elon Musk Caught in the Russia-Ukraine Crossfire
By Luc Olinga,2023-02-02
The billionaire is a vocal supporter of Ukraine in the war, but his support also earns him fierce criticism from both sides.
Russia's war in Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24 with Moscow invading Kyiv, made Elon Musk a global icon.
The billionaire entrepreneur overnight became a window of freedom by sending Starlink -- a satellite internet-access service developed by SpaceX, Musk''s space-technology company -- to Ukraine.
This secure and independent service is used particularly by civilians in areas under attack by Russia and in areas where infrastructure has been destroyed.
Starlink satellites have also become the only means of communication for the Ukrainian armed forces on the front after Russia destroyed the country's telecommunication infrastructure.
"Starlink is the primary communications system of the Ukrainian army on the war front. If anyone else wants this job, please be my guest..." Musk posted on Twitter on Oct. 14.
Russia Calls Musk a 'War Criminal'
The Ukrainian authorities have confirmed the crucial role Starlink plays in this war, which also includes messaging. Starlink enables the Ukrainian authorities to continue to control part of the war narrative.
The billionaire had thought that this support would at least earn him recognition from Ukrainians and the Western world, which sees the Russo-Ukrainian conflict as a clash between democracy and dictatorship.
But last October Musk proposed a controversial plan to end the conflict and found himself the target of fierce criticism from Ukrainians and their supporters.
He unsuccessfully explained that this peace plan, which accepted a good part of the Russian demands, was aimed at avoiding an all-out war with devastating consequences for Ukraine and the world. But the explanation came late and fell flat. The billionaire's reputation took a big hit in the West and among Ukrainian allies.
Through all the criticism Musk has been for several months been denouncing the escalation of the conflict as American and German tanks were being sent to Ukraine. He sees the supply of tanks as a first step to a large-scale war.
"The war is escalating quickly," he warned on Jan. 31.
NATO and Ukraine's allies are for now ignoring these warnings.
But the billionaire, continues to indirectly play a central role in the war because of Starlink. The satellites are helping Ukrainian military drones, which are equipped with anti-tank grenades, destroy Russian tanks and army trucks.
Musk is reviled by the Russians, but he accepts that as the cost of providing the Starlink service to Ukraine. But according to the billionaire the Ukrainians and their allies are also unhappy because he has limited Starlink's role on the battlefield.
Musk thus finds himself, he says, in a situation in which whatever he does or does not do, he will take blame from both sides.
The billionaire complained about this no-win situation in a recent thread on Twitter. It started when a Ukrainian official posted a short Russian TV video on the platform in which Musk is called a "war criminal" for supplying Starlink satellites to Ukraine.
'Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't': Musk
"Damned if you do, damned if you don’t," the billionaire reacted on Jan.31.
The serial entrepreneur has received support from many platform users, including Billy Markus, one of the founders of the dogecoin cryptocurrency.
"Everybody paying taxes in the US is a war criminal with this dumb fuck logic," Markus commented.
"SpaceX Starlink has become the connectivity backbone of Ukraine all the way up to the front lines. This is the damned if you do part," Musk quipped.
"However, we are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes. This is the damned if you don’t part," he added.
Musk reiterates that his support for Ukraine remains strong despite the criticism.
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