It’s one more joker in the international mess. Between the takeover of Twitter, the launch of four astronauts and a new salvo of 54 satellites and the presentation of an electric semi-trailer, Elon Musk found the time to propose a “special administrative zone” to settle the fate of Taiwan and a “peace plan” for Ukraine (neutralization of Ukraine, abandonment of Crimea, referendum in the areas occupied by Russia).
In a few months, the richest man in the world has thus alienated the authorities of these countries, arousing the irritation of the White House, and even the Pentagon, a moment asked to settle the bill for the service of Internet access via its constellation of satellites (Starlink) in Ukraine.
Hybridization between Big Tech and States
The American billionaire has established himself as a major player in global geopolitics, a symbol of the growing hybridization of power between big tech and states. Tesla (electric vehicles), SpaceX and Starlink (space), Neuralink (neurotechnology), NBIC (brain implants) and Twitter are “the cornerstones of his total technology project as an ultimate answer to all the problems of the world”, analyzes Asma Mhalla, specialist in digital geopolitical issues, teacher at Sciences Po and École Polytechnique.
For twenty years, its partnership with the federal government has enabled the United States to regain its dominant position in space. The US military uses Starlink, while its space company SpaceX produces rockets for NASA. Long supported by American public power, its power is beginning to worry Washington, as is its network of foreign investors and holdings outside the United States. To the point that officials want more thorough checks on its possible development projects in China and Russia.
Under surveillance in Washington
“Its relations with other countries are worth considering,” said Joe Biden last week in response to a question about the involvement of Saudi Prince Al Walid Ben Talal in the takeover of Twitter. The latter has, in fact, brought to Elon Musk the almost 35 million shares he already held in the social network, directly and via his KHC holding company, which makes him the second largest shareholder in the group.
At the request of two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden, chairman of the Finance Committee, and Chris Murphy, senator from Connecticut, the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investments (CFIUS) – responsible for investigating foreign investments in the US transactions – must examine whether this Saudi participation has any “national security implications“.
“I have long argued that the United States has a national security interest in protecting Americans’ data from murderous foreign governments, and this Saudi regime fits that description perfectly.», insisted Ron Wyden.
The committee must also examine the billionaire’s ties to China. Tesla operates a manufacturing plant in Shanghai that produces more than one million electric vehicles. “The US government is concerned about its reliance on countries like China, foreign investors like the Saudi prince, and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, whose values and interests are not aligned with those of the United States. points out Katja Munoz, researcher at the German Council for Foreign Relations (DGAP). Nearly half of Tesla’s production comes from China, and this is leverage that Beijing could use on Starlink and Twitter. »
According to Ian Bremmer, boss of the Eurasia Group, Elon Musk had spoken with Vladimir Putin on the red lines of the Kremlin about Ukraine, before swinging his “peace plan” at three points. “A classic Putin game, which uses intermediaries to test reactions to his ideas», decrypts Fiona Hill, researcher at the Brookings Institution. Between the American State and the transgressive billionaire, the codependency has not finished being toxic.