what happened to him Elon Musk this past week shows how completely deranged and dangerous US policy toward Ukraine has become.
The sentence began when the Washington Post published excerpts of a new biography on Musk that revealed he turned down a request from Ukraine to help launch a major sneak attack in September 2022 on the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
There was numerous, legitimate reasons why Musk refused to activate his Starlink Internet services for Ukraine to carry out the unprecedented surprise attack on Russian naval vessels: Musk provided terminals to Ukraine for free; at that time he did not have a military contract; the nightly request came directly from the Ukrainian government, not the US; and Starlink had never been activated over Crimea due to US sanctions on Russia.
Most importantly, Musk was concerned that enabling the attack could result in serious “escalation of the conflict.” He was worried about being asked to power up Starlink for a “An attack similar to Pearl Harbor“and I didn’t want to”proactively participate in a major act of war,” possibly provoking a Russian nuclear response.
In answer to this nuclear aversion, Musk was called “evil” by a senior Ukrainian official and “traitor” by American warmongers.
Rachel Maddow in the Russian conspiracy network MSNBC said that Musk “was intervening to try to keep Ukraine from winning the war.” Not to be despised, CNNJake Tapper described Elon as a “capricious billionaire” who “sabotaged a military operation by Ukraine, a US ally,” an act that calls for “repercussions.” For his part, the Iraq war sales chief turned beloved Democrat, David Frum, said that Musk should be stripped of his contracts with the US government for not reflexively acceding to the request of Ukraine Starlink, and former “progressive”. Sen. Elizabeth Warrenhe asked for one immediate congressional investigation “Ensure that foreign policy is run by the government and not by a billionaire.”
‼️ @SenWarren calls for an investigation into SpaceX after Musk blocked Ukraine from extending the Starlink network near Crimea.
“Congress needs to investigate whether we have the right tools to ensure that foreign policy is run by the government and not by a billionaire.” pic.twitter.com/p3I19Yk851
— Ostap Yarysh (@OstapYarysh) September 12, 2023
But Musk’s stack was just getting started. In the days that followed, his detractors used a Ukrainian operation as evidence that Musk was overreacting. Days after the Starlink story broke, Ukraine successfully fired British Storm Shadow cruise missiles at the Russian naval headquarters in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. It was the bigger attack since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly 19 months ago, and that damageof a Russian submarine and warship.
When military action was not followed by World War III, Musk came under fire again. Like the pro-war media pointed out, “It was precisely this strike, according to Musk, that should have sparked a nuclear war.” A torrent of international relationships experts activated Twitter mocked Musk, tweeting things like, “I was assured by an ISP executive that this would have led to WW3 and the use of nuclear weapons,” and “How’s it going man, after of the splendid attack on Sevastopol? Has World War III already begun?”
Musk’s detractors might think this is all very funny, but attacking Crimea, not to mention the Russian mainland in increasingly frequent drone strikes on Moscow, is no laughing matter. Even the staunchest Western warmongers of the NATO allies Atlantic Council in Estonian defense minister to Biden’s own secretary of state Antony Blinken all previously acknowledged that threatening Crimea is a potential “red line” that could lead to nuclear war.
Like the Russian military specialist Nicolo Fasola pointed out in April, “There is a clear risk that Putin will use nuclear weapons to counter a Ukrainian offensive in Crimea. And that is why Ukraine’s Western allies are reluctant.”
But that earlier caution has faded, no doubt as a result of the much-touted counter-offensive disappointing American war plannersleading to a seemingly endless and stalled war of attrition remember the First World War. Meanwhile, Biden’s political legacy is at stake as the presidential elections approach.
The longer the war goes on, the more the Biden administration and his NATO allies are throwing caution to the wind. Biden keep consenting supply weapons previously discarded as excessively escalated, from Patriot air defense systems to Abrams tanks, including cluster munitions and F-16s. The latest reversal is over the planned transfer of the Army’s tactical missile systems that can fly up to 190 miles, enabling Ukrainian forces to strike well beyond Russia’s defensive positions within Crimea and into sovereign Russian territory.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan used to exclude ATACMS “to make sure we don’t get into a situation where we approach World War III.” Even CNN, an enthusiastic advocate of greater American involvement in the war, has done so recognized the “fears of the escalation of the conflict”.
A couple of months ago, Senator James Risch of Idaho he said the Aspen Security Forum, “I’m tired of hearing about escalation. I want Putin to wake up in the morning worried about what he’s going to do that will make us escalate.” Biden now seems to agree.
The view that now rules the Democratic Party and the president is the same as the warmongers: Worrying as Musk does about turning the war in Ukraine into something catastrophically worse is silly. It is un-American not to try to find Russia’s red line to start World War III. It is treacherous to believe—as the president himself did just a few months ago—that we should do everything possible to prevent escalation.
The new mantra seems to be: We’re not trying hard enough in Ukraine until we feel the nuclear explosion in our faces.
Max Abrahms, Ph.D., is a professor of political science at Northeastern University and the author of Rules for Rebels: The Science of Victory in Militant History.