Elon Musk’s ‘peace’ plan for Russia and Ukraine met with backlash

Elon Musk took a break from his day job of leading carmaker Tesla and space cargo company SpaceX to post a “peace” plan for ending the war in Ukraine. But his proposal was quickly met with backlash—including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On Monday, Musk posted a poll on Twitter with four suggestions to ending the war. The first: Enlist the United Nations to supervise a redo of the recent sham elections by Russia of four Ukrainian regions that it formally annexed last week. Next, he called for Crimea—invaded by Russia in 2014 and currently occupied by it—to formally become part of Russia. Then, he said Crimea’s water supply should be assured. And lastly, he argued, Ukraine should remain neutral rather than joining NATO. 

“This is highly likely to be the outcome in the end – just a question of how many die before then,” Musk wrote, as a follow up. “Also worth noting that a possible, albeit unlikely, outcome from this conflict is nuclear war.” 

Less than three hours after his first tweet, Zelensky responded to Musk with his own poll, mocking Musk’s plan. 

“Which @elonmusk do you like more?” Zelensky asked. The two choices? One who supports Ukraine, and one who supports Russia. 

Musk later responded to Zelensky, saying, “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.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, also piled on Musk in atypical fashion for a diplomat. “Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you,” he wrote. Melnyk later added that no Ukrainian would ever buy a Tesla, telling Musk “good luck.”

Musk, however, persisted. 

“Let’s try this then: the will of the people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine,” he wrote—asking his Twitter followers to answer either “yes” or “no.”

Financial Times correspondent Christopher Miller replied to Musk’s tweet, referring to the Ukrainian Independence Referendum, when Ukrainians were asked to vote on the country’s independence.

“Let’s not try that, @elonmusk,” he wrote. “The people of Donbas & Crimea made their decision in 1991, when Ukrainians from those areas & all others voted freely & unanimously to be in Ukraine.” 

Donbas, a region in Eastern Ukraine, is now nearly fully occupied by Russia. But Ukraine has vowed to liberate it. 

In suggesting Crimea—a peninsula that’s been at the center of Russia and Ukraine’s conflicts—should formally become part of Russia, Musk made clear his belief that the region belongs to Russia, adding that Crimea’s being transferred to Ukraine from Russia by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was a “mistake.” 

A top advisor to Zelensky responded sarcastically to Musk’s Twitter diplomacy  by saying there was a “better peace plan”—including Ukraine liberating its territories, Russia demilitarizing and denuclearizing so it can no longer threaten others, and war criminals be put on trial. 

It’s not just Ukrainian officials who pushed back against Musk. Many of his Twitter followers sounded off in the comments, calling him a “disappointment” and asking that he refrain from weighing in on a topic so outside of his expertise.  

Despite the often hostile response, Musk gave his peace plan one more push on Twitter. 

“Russia is doing partial mobilization. They go to full war mobilization if Crimea is at risk. Death on both sides will be devastating,” the tweet said. “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.”

Musk’s Starlink, which provides satellite-based internet access, has played a pivotal role in the war by offering its service for free in Ukraine. Operated by SpaceX, it’s helped Ukraine counter disinformation from Russia and helped Ukrainians and Ukraine’s military communicate, while also connecting the country to the outside world. 

“SpaceX’s out of pocket cost to enable & support Starlink in Ukraine is ~$80M so far,” he said. “Our support for Russia is $0. Obviously, we are pro Ukraine.”

Update, October 3, 2022: This article was updated to include Elon Musk’s recent responses on Twitter.

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