Elon Musk and Ukraine seem to be hand in hand again.
The billionaire CEO of Tesla (TSLA) seems to have regained his place as a hero in the eyes of the Ukrainian people, 10 days after he proposed a controversial peace plan.
The peace plan, unveiled on Oct. 3, mirrored Russian demands. Indeed, the techno king asked Ukraine to recognize the Crimea region, which Russia annexed in 2014, as Russian territory.
Under the terms, Kyiv would also have had to agree to remain neutral on the international scene. Ukraine would have to renounce the idea of membership in NATO and the European Union, two organizations that Russia considers a threat to its sovereignty.
A Peace Plan, Sharply Rejected by Ukraine
Musk's peace plan also came at a time when the Ukrainian armed forces had won a number of victories against the Russians.
The Ukrainian authorities vehemently rejected the plan, often with strong words. Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, even said "Fuck off" to Musk's diplomatic efforts. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Musk of being pro-Russian.
Musk submitted the plan to a vote of his nearly 109 million followers on Twitter and it was largely rejected.
Faced with such strong reactions, the billionaire explained that his plan was realistic. Musk said he feared that the conflict would escalate into all-out war with the possibility of a nuclear attack and potentially devastating consequences for Ukraine and the world.
"Nuclear war probability is rising rapidly," the billionaire warned on Oct. 9.
These explanations failed to convince his detractors and the Ukrainians.
Things were not settled when Ian Bremmer, the founder of the think tank Eurasia Group, said that Musk had confided in him that he had spoken with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, before unveiling his peace plan.
The tech tycoon, the richest man in the world, denied the report, reiterating that he spoke with Putin only back in 2021, and the topic was space. SpaceX, Musk's aerospace company, plays an important role in the effort to conquer space.
Ukraine and Musk Mend Fences
Ukraine and Musk now seem ready to mend the damage caused by Musk's proposal. Ukraine's vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, has just announced that Starlink, SpaceX's satellite Internet access service, had enabled Ukraine to restore the connection in certain important areas of the country. The move came after the latest Russian attacks.
"Over 100 cruise missiles attacked [Ukraine's] energy and communications infrastructure," Fedorov said on Twitter on Oct. 12. "But with Starlink we quickly restored the connection in critical areas. Starlink continues to be an essential part of critical infrastructure," Fedorov said.
Fedorov also included the image of a Starlink antenna to demonstrate his point.
Musk accepted this offering by Fedorov, which again made the executive a hero for the Ukrainian people. He then renewed his support for Ukraine.
"You’re most welcome," the billionaire said. "Glad to support Ukraine."
The reactions among Twitter users remain divided. Some seem delighted that Musk is renewing his support for Ukraine, while others seem not to have forgiven him for his peace plan, which they considered a capitulation.
"Glad you’ve come around. Please keep supporting Ukraine. We all need to. Ukrainian victory is critical for the future of humanity," one Twitter user said.
"Really? You support Ukraine? You change stances from day to day. You would make a good politician," another user quipped.
Musk, who sees himself as a global CEO, wants to fill what he considers a worldwide leadership vacuum caused by people's distrust of politics.
He was the first boss of a large international company to take the side of the Ukrainians after the unprovoked Russian invasion on Feb. 24. He further surprised the world by accompanying his rhetorical support with action in the form of sending Starlink terminals to Ukraine.
Starlink Provides Independent Net Access
The service guarantees secure and independent access to the internet. It is difficult to hack. Service cuts are rare. It also provides access to the internet for residents of areas that are poorly served by the fixed and mobile networks of telecom operators. Thousands of small satellites circulating in low orbit -- mainly 342 miles (550km) above Earth -- enable the service.
Starlink gave Ukrainians independent access to the internet and enabled the country to keep in touch with the outside world. Starlink's effectiveness foiled Russia's war communications plans, causing fury among Russia's authorities to the point that they threatened to retaliate.
The cost of sending Starlink terminals to Ukraine continues to rise for Musk and SpaceX.
"This operation has cost SpaceX $80M & will exceed $100M by end of year," the billionaire said on Oct. 7.