Elon Musk is more than a tech mogul and the world’s richest man. Even as he stirs things up on the American political scene, he’s also making forays into geopolitics. The founder of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla, and soon-to-be owner of Twitter holds no official or honorary office but has an outsized personality and a compulsion to pronounce on matters both within and beyond his areas of expertise. He also has, at last check, an estimated net worth of $238 billion.
That buys him influence in global affairs. In October Musk asked his millions of online followers to approve a four-point plan for ending the war in Ukraine. His proposals resembled those often put forth by Russia, such as acknowledging the legitimacy of the 2014 annexation of Crimea and ceding Russian-occupied territories in the east. The “poll” went decisively against him, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ridiculed the move. Piqued, Musk then suggested he’d pull out of an arrangement under which he’d been giving Ukraine free access to his Starlink satellite network. Ukraine has relied on network access not only for basic government functions but also for secure battlefield communications—something many credit for Ukraine’s unexpected successes against the Russians. Musk publicly complained about high monthly “burn rate” (lost revenues), but then backed off his threat after Ukrainian appeals. “The hell with it,” he wrote on Twitter. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.” (Western governments do pay for the 20,000 Starlink terminals Ukraine needs to connect to the network.)