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Why did Elon Musk get the war in Ukraine so wrong?

The tech mogul Elon Musk sparked outrage among supporters of Ukraine recently when he put forward a peace plan that’s favorable to the Kremlin. Musk called on Ukraine to accept Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and agree to new referendums in Russian-occupied Ukraine that would let residents choose who should control those territories.


Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denounced Musk’s proposal as rewarding Russia for its invasion. “Those who propose Ukraine to give up on its people and land — presumably not to hurt Putin’s bruised ego or to save Ukraine from suffering — must stop using word ‘peace’ as an euphemism to ‘let Russians murder and rape thousands more innocent Ukrainians, and grab more land,'” Kuleba tweeted.


Ukrainian journalist, Anastasiia Lapatina, offered up “a bit of actual history for” Musk. “Crimea belongs to Ukraine, and more specifically, to Crimean Tatars,” she tweeted, tagging Musk in her thread. “They were the absolute majority of Crimea’s population before imperial Russia annexed it in 1783, and began its centuries-long russification campaign, which included a genocide of CT in 1944. Don’t act like you know who Crimea belongs to,” she tweeted.


Maxsim Mirovich, a popular Belorussian blogger, posted on his telegram channel – “If Elon Musk was talking to Chikatilo (a Soviet era serial killer) he’d probably suggest:

1. Interview survivors to determine if they are really all that innocent
2. Study Chikatilo’s childhood to understand his mindset
3. Offer him some farm land to avoid future deaths in the city
4. Police stay neutral



Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov, who is now living in exile in Croatia after emerging as a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin accused Musk of displaying “moral idiocy and geopolitical blindness.”

Not surprisingly, Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded by saying it was “very positive that somebody like Elon Musk is looking for a peaceful way out of this situation”, but warned that Russia will not backtrack on its move to absorb the Ukrainian regions.


Fiona Hill, one of America’s observers of Russia and Putin, as well as many supporters of Ukraine, state that Elon Musk is Transmitting a Message for Putin. She sees him trying to get the West to accede to his aims by using messengers like billionaire Elon Musk to propose arrangements that would end the conflict on his terms.


Even Musk’s peace proposal is full of Kremlin’s talking points.

Hill “Musk made a suggestion that the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia should be up for negotiation, because there should be guaranteed water supplies to Crimea. He made this suggestion before Putin’s annexation of those two territories on September 30. It was a very specific reference. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia essentially control all the water supplies to Crimea. Crimea is a dry peninsula. It has aquifers, but it doesn’t have rivers. It’s dependent on water from the Dnipro River that flows through a canal from Kherson. It’s unlikely Elon Musk knows about this himself. The reference to water is so specific that this clearly is a message from Putin.”


So how could Musk, one of the most technologically advanced people, who has access to all information on the internet, buy into Russian propaganda and believe anything Kremlin and Putin is saying?


Putin is a master manipulator. It comes from his KGB training.


“Putin plays the egos of big men, gives them a sense that they can play a role. But in reality, they’re just direct transmitters of messages from Vladimir Putin,” Hill says. “He does this frequently. He uses prominent people as intermediaries to feel out the general political environment, to basically test how people are going to react to ideas. Henry Kissinger, for example, has had interactions with Putin directly and relayed messages…


He is basically short-circuiting the diplomatic process. He wants to lay out his terms and see how many people are going to pick them up. All of this is an effort to get Americans to take themselves out of the war and hand over Ukraine and Ukrainian territory to Russia.”


This is a classic Putin’s play, and it usually is a part of a larger propaganda and disinformation campaign, when all state media and pro-Kremlin social media accounts start manufacturing fake news and repeating the same talking points, sometimes word for word.


Russia’s opposition politician Alexei Navalny said that the “monstrosity of lies” in the Russian state media “is unimaginable. And, unfortunately, so is its persuasiveness for those who have no access to alternative information.”



Musk has access to alternative information. He also knows how media and “fake news” work. Yet, it looks like he bought into Russian propaganda. That’s why his case is so interesting. If he can be easily manipulated, what does it say about the rest of us?




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