There is a long and inglorious history of big boss businessmen (and they do tend to be male) interfering in politics. Henry Ford, for example, was not only viciously anti-union, but pro-Hitler. Howard Hughes was less picky – he gave cash to Republicans and Democrats just the same, and for the same purpose, to gain power and influence.
Bankers, property developers and of course newspaper proprietors have all very often sought to give public voice to their views and to “persuade” politicians to understand their point of view. I may as well mention Donald J Trump, who at least tried to get elected.
Elon Musk’s poor taste intervention on Ukraine is no different, and no better than many a previous blundering plutocrat before him. Maybe he’s well-meaning, but no matter. He has no more idea than the poorest citizen in the land as to what the best settlement might be between Ukraine and Russia. And now, it seems, it is even more complicated: a report has said that the Tesla CEO spoke to Vladimir Putin before tweeting his peace plan for the war in Ukraine.
Musk seemingly told Eurasia’s Ian Bremner that the Russian president was “prepared to negotiate” if the Crimean peninsula remained in Russian hands, Vice reported.
If true, what is not just stupid, but recklessly immoral, is for Musk to consult the aggressor himself before tweeting his rather skewed advice and without declaring any conversations that he’s had with the autocrat.
Vast wealth, it ought to be apparent by now, does not bestow wisdom on any mere human being. A Twitter poll is probably the least sensible way to determine US foreign policy, whatever its merits may be (and not enough for Musk to follow through on his plan to buy the platform). And it is disgraceful to treat the tragedy of Ukraine as if it were some Twitter quiz. As the Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov said: "This is moral idiocy, repetition of Kremlin propaganda, a betrayal of Ukrainian courage and sacrifice."
Indeed so. Millions have already been killed, raped, maimed, tortured, forcibly exiled, kidnapped, made homeless and lost their nearest and dearest, and millions more follow. Instead of trivialising the war, which even now risks nuclear escalation, Musk might be better off using his billions to offer aid to refugees, and to help rebuild Ukraine when the nation finally wins the war and liberates itself from Russian occupation.
Why, Musk – being the great modern industrialist he is – could even manufacture some advanced weaponry to donate to the Ukrainian war effort. He does deserve credit for supporting Ukraine with the Starlink satellite system, to the tune of about $80m. If he did some of that, then the Russians could be repelled and the long-term peace of Europe as a whole would be assured.
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Like many a useful idiot who’ve helped Russian leaders in the past, Musk seems unduly naive about the cunning and ruthless nature of the present Kremlin leadership. In an ideal world – from his point of view – Putin wouldn’t finish until he was back at his old KGB desk in East Berlin. Appeasement – which is all Musk offers – won’t work.
What Musk doesn’t seem to grasp is that peace with honour and justice will not arrive until the Russians are defeated and expelled. Musk could also create some hi-tech plan to make the new Ukraine the most advanced and prosperous, and safe, nation on earth. He could build Tesla vehicles there, and his new robots. Anything really; but rather more useful than a Twitter poll about a half-baked peace plan.
So no wonder the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany has told Musk to go away, in the most earthy of language, and President Zelensky has dismissed the Musk peace plan, such as it is. Zelensky suggests a different choice for Elon Musk: “one who supports Ukraine” or “one who supports Russia”. That’s the choice that Musk doesn’t wish to face up to, but it is what Putin’s war is all about. C’mon, Elon – let’s win the war!