Elon Musk Ukraine Starlink intervention could be worrying sign of things to come – Sky News

There could well be more mega rich individuals with the same combination of wealth, power and ego as Elon Musk who want to have a go at geopolitics. In Kyiv, the reaction has been furious.

By Dominic Waghorn, International Affairs Editor @DominicWaghorn

Friday 8 September 2023 15:13, UK

Elon Musk’s intervention in the Ukraine war will be deeply troubling to many but it is also a sign of things to come.

The rise of omnipotent billionaires may be only just beginning, with AI likely to accelerate their ascent to positions of wealth and influence that will exceed the power of nation states.

The storyline is straight out of a cheap thriller. A fabulously wealthy billionaire helps Ukraine take on the Russians with a constellation of satellites and equipment on the ground.

Latest as Kyiv responds furiously to Musk revelations

But as the war grinds on, Kyiv fears he is increasingly ambivalent. Then, just as they are on the verge of a decisive blow that could shape the direction of the war, he turns off his network and saves the Russian fleet.

Musk is mercurial and unaccountable. His pronouncements on social media are at times impulsive and ill-considered. He does not exhibit the wisdom of a latter-day Solomon.

Ukraine: Kiev rages at Elon Musk

And yet, that appears to have been the role he chose for himself, with far-reaching consequences.

For months, the government in Kyiv has gritted its teeth when it comes to Musk and taken the rough with the smooth. Starlink has helped the Ukrainians’ war effort hugely and Musk has sent them tens of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment.

But they are not mincing their words now. Ukrainian officials have been spitting feathers at the news.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelenskyy, condemned Musk’s intervention.

“As a result civilians, children are being killed. This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and big ego,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Musk seems to have been taken in by the spectre of Russian nuclear retaliation. Moscow has stoked such fears through much of this war but Western intelligence agencies say there is no sign they are serious.

Using tactical nuclear weapons takes weeks to prepare for, bringing assets out of storage and priming their deployment. Nothing like that has happened.

Musk may have believed he was singlehandedly saving the world from a much bigger war and nuclear conflagration.

Critics say that was naïve and he should stick to his day job. His decision means that Russian naval assets remain intact and operational and continue to launch devastating ship-based Kalibr missiles into Ukraine, killing civilians, destroying markets, restaurants, homes and hospitals.

All that, say Ukrainians, is now blood on Musk’s hands.

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Should the US government have reined Musk in to set an example to other tycoons who fancy themselves as self-appointed guardians of the world order?

Intriguingly, Musk is reported to have been in touch with the White House and Pentagon during this episode, but their response is not clear.

The Biden administration needs to explain more about its role in all this. The suspicion is policymakers have been all too happy to tolerate Musk’s involvement in the war because it has saved them money.

But how wise was that in hindsight?

The development sets a worrying precedent. There will no doubt be more mega-wealthy individuals with the same combination of wealth, power and ego to want to have a go at geopolitics.

There are reasons why diplomacy and international relations have been left to elected governments in the West, staffed with legions of foreign policy advisers and not put in the hands of one man.

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