Elon Musk often uses his Twitter account as ‘a weapon’either threatening to back out of his deal to buy the social network or insulting President Joe Biden by calling him a “puppet in human form.”
But recently, the world’s richest person stepped into dangerous geopolitical territory by offering proposals to end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and resolve doubts about Taiwan’s sovereignty.
His tweets and other public comments have angered presidents and foreign ministers across Europe and awkwardly earned praise — but from America’s rivals.
Now Musk is once again treading on ‘dangerous ground’: On Friday, he threatened to cut off financial support for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service in Ukraine, a move that would deny the country a key media in the fight against Russian forces. .
While Musk isn’t the first American business executive or celebrity to become entangled in foreign policy, his wealth and penchant for mischief, not to mention its multi-million dollar defense contractsThey make it harder to ignore.
Musk equals trouble
It is a phenomenon that will only be enhanced if Musk fulfills his agreement and buys Twitter for 44 billion dollars. Such a move would allow him to shape the debate in a way that he has not been able to because he would control a platform entirely.
When asked in an email about criticism of his comments on diplomatic and geopolitical issues, Musk replied: “When did Bloomberg News become worthless garbage?”
American diplomats are well aware of Musk’s controversial comments, said a State Department official, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity, stressing that Musk’s remarks are those of a private citizen and do not reflect the administration’s thinking. by Joe Biden.
“Starlink and Twitter are small in global terms, but they are hugely important to key countries and constituencies,” said Jon Bateman, senior fellow for technology and international affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“All of this means that Musk’s pronouncements on international affairs, which have lately been naive at bestthey cannot simply be ignored,” he remarked.
Musk, the ‘influencer’
There is no doubt that Musk’s words carry weight: with his high-level connections around the world and his vast financial clout, there have been many questions as to why the richest man in the world decides to get involved in any matter, particularly after that the president of the Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, stated that President Vladimir Putin and the founder of SpaceX have been chatting.
Musk later tweeted that this claim was false and that he had not spoken to Putin in 18 months, and that even then their conversations were about space. But later, Bremmer reaffirmed what he said, adding that it was the same millionaire who told him that he had talked with the Russian president about Ukraine.
He also told me what they were. the red lines of the kremlinBremmer added, suggesting that Russian officials, at the very least, might have seen it as some sort of secret channel.
“I’ll let Mr. Musk speak for his conversations,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby responded when asked about a possible call between the billionaire and Putin. “Obviously, he does not represent the United States government in those conversations.”
When celebrities do politics
Former basketball star Dennis Rodman once partyed in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
But Musk’s influence extends far beyond basketball, with an expanding digital reach fueled by his disgruntlement and vast wealth: a fortune of about $209 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
His company, SpaceX, has won contracts from the Pentagon for national security satellite launches, and his Tesla electric vehicle factory in Shanghai is the company’s largest. He has also proposed Starlink as a way to help protesters in Iran, an idea Musk helped promote when he tweeted that SpaceX would seek an exemption from US sanctions to deploy there.
And most important of all, he is looking to buy Twitter… after threatening to cancel his purchase agreement.
“Billionaires often seek to influence public discourse on global issues,” said the Carnegie Endowment’s Bateman. “Elon Musk may be the only millionaire person besides Donald Trump who shapes conversations so directly through his personal cultural power.”
His most recent ‘stumble’: Ukraine
Last week, Musk tweeted a proposal for Ukraine to cede territory that Russia claimed to have annexed to end the war.
Finland’s former prime minister said Musk’s intervention made him the “useful idiot” Putin, while a Ukrainian diplomat, Andrij Melnyk, was more forceful, tweeting: “Chin$%&$, is my very diplomatic response @elonmusk.”
On Friday, Musk said on Twitter that his company SpaceX could not continue to bear the cost of Starlink in Ukraine indefinitely, adding that the operation had cost SpaceX close to $80 million Until now.
He later sent another tweet saying Russia is “actively trying to kill Starlink” and has had to divert “massive resources” to defend the service.