Elon Musk's 'peace plan' for Russia-Ukraine war explained

A photo illustration of Elon Musk against a backdrop image of the war in Ukraine.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday invited Elon Musk to visit the war-torn country after the tech billionaire tweeted a peace proposal to end Russia’s invasion. Speaking via video link at the New York Times’ DealBook conference, Zelensky hit back at Musk, stating that only after seeing it with his own eyes would he be allowed to “tell us how to end this war … and when we can end it.”

What was Musk’s peace proposal?

On Oct. 3, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted out a poll to his 119 million followers to vote on his idea for a peace plan, which included four parts to end the war between Russia and Ukraine.

The first was to redo the elections that had taken place in September in the newly Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories. Citizens in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, voted for whether they wanted to join Russia. The elections were labeled a sham by Ukraine and Western nations; President Biden said the U.S. would never recognize the results. Under Musk’s proposal, these elections would be repeated “under UN supervision,” and should the population vote not to join Russia, then Russia would leave since it “is [the] will of the people.”

A woman casts her vote in Donetsk, Ukraine.
A woman casts her vote in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Sept. 24. (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The second part of Musk’s peace plan was to declare Crimea — a Ukrainian peninsula that the Kremlin annexed in 2014 — a formal part of Russia. Musk added that Crimea had been “formally part of Russia” since 1783 “until Khrushchev’s mistake.” What he is referring to here is when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev “gifted” Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s “reunification” with what was then the Russian Empire.

However, according to Khrushchev’s son Sergei, it was done to streamline a project that saw the building of two major canals between Ukraine and Crimea. Once the power of Crimea was transferred to Ukraine, the project would take place under one administration.

Musk’s final two parts were to ensure that Crimea’s water supply was secured (Crimea relies on the mainland and its Dnipro river for nearly all of its water), and that Ukraine would remain “neutral.” He followed up the poll, which asked Twitter users to vote yes or no, with his conclusions that his peace proposal would “highly likely” be the “outcome in the end” and that it was only a “question of how many die before then.” Another possible, “albeit unlikely outcome,” Musk wrote, would be nuclear war.

Kremlin’s response

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov praised the proposed plan. He said it was “very positive” that someone like Musk was looking for “a peaceful settlement.” However, he criticized his proposal for a new referendum, stating that “people have voiced their opinion and there could be nothing else.”

Has Musk shown support for Ukraine?

A woman looks at her smartphone near a SpaceX Starlink internet terminal installed in a flowerbed in Vorzel, Ukraine.
A woman near a SpaceX Starlink internet terminal in Vorzel, Ukraine, in May. (Taras Podolian/Gazeta.ua/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

When the invasion began in February, senior government officials in Kyiv asked Musk to provide the country with terminals so they could access the internet. Musk owns SpaceX, which operates the satellite internet service Starlink. It had been a concern from the beginning that both civilians and the military would endure an internet blackout from Russia’s targeted attacks on IT infrastructure. Within days, Musk shipped thousands of Starlink terminals to Ukraine, providing a way for the country’s military forces to communicate on the battlefield.

Is Starlink still available in Ukraine?

Yes, it is still available in Ukraine. Despite stating that SpaceX would no longer be able to fund the operation for Ukraine “indefinitely” because it was too expensive, Starlink continues to perform there. “The hell with it,” Musk tweeted on Oct. 15, despite already asking the Defense Department to take over funding. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”

Do we know if Musk has spoken with Putin?

Eurasia Group president and political analyst Ian Bremmer reported that Musk had been talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin about Ukraine. According to Bremmer, Musk told him Putin was “prepared to negotiate” on a number of conditions. Musk, however, denied this report and claimed he had “spoken to Putin only once” in the past 18 months and the discussion was about “space.”