Elon Musk, the world’s new policeman

Elon Musk, the world's new policeman

The neo-fascist Giorgia Meloni, Italian President of the Council of Ministers, is not the only one to nourish a very political passion for The Lord of the Rings. In another register, this is also the case of Elon Musk. In the work of JRR Tolkien, power has no other raison d’être than that of its limitless expansion. A challenge for the ordering of the world. In recent months, the billionaire, co-founder of SpaceX and general manager of the car company Tesla, has played the role of secretary of state bis, even warlord. For Olivier Lascar, author ofInvestigation of Elon Musk, the man who defies sciencefrom Ukraine to Taiwan, “this intervention frenzy is a symptom of hubris, of his belief in his ability to intervene on everything. This excessive confidence comes from a series of industrial successes mainly at SpaceX and Tesla”.

A kind of oracle of new times which found a new sounding board with the general public, in 2013, when the media coverage of the Hyperloop project, these capsules circulating faster than air transport thanks to magnetic levitation in a low pressure tube. On October 27, its takeover of Twitter for 44 billion dollars (42.6 billion euros) further increased its audience. Based on a permanent empiricism, Elon Musk multiplies diplomatic interventions and builds his vision as he goes. “The hypothesis that he was a madman is invalidated by his past successes”, insists Fabrice Epelboin, teacher at Sciences Po.

SpaceX and its defenses

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, this “techno-prophet” who believes in the ability of technology to solve all of humanity’s problems, has been graciously providing kyiv with access to the space Internet through the provision of 25,000 Starlink terminals, in order to allow the country to connect to the network despite the keystrokes. A significant tool from the point of view of military strategy since it allows Ukraine to geolocate Russian targets. Weary, last October, considering that philanthropy had its limits (the estimated cost of this support is estimated at 400 million dollars for the next twelve months), Elon Musk asked the United States to take over. Before changing your mind.

“Starlink is the only communications system still working on the front line, all the others are dead. Russia is actively trying to kill Starlink. For its protection, SpaceX has redirected massive resources to defense,” thus informed the boss. The sequence had the merit of revealing the strategic issues linked to the spatial Internet and the extensible capacities in the military field which Elon Musk now enjoyed. The contractor has in fact created a situation of dependence on the Pentagon vis-à-vis its services. According to Fabrice Epelboin, “We are living in a significant moment with regard to the question of the transfer of power between politics and these immense powers that constitute the billionaires. We are faced with someone who, through his personal fortune, plays the role usually assigned to States”.

On October 3, he proposed in a tweet a “peace plan” based on elections under the auspices of the UN in the territories passed under Russian control, in the east of the country. According to Elon Musk, “Most of Ukraine unequivocally wants to be part of Ukraine, but some eastern parts have Russian majorities and prefer Russia,” he explained, based on the result of the 2012 legislative elections. What provoke the ire of kyiv and the satisfaction of Moscow: “Elon Musk is digging deeper and deeper into the real origins of the Ukrainian crisis. A commendable step! », welcomed the Russian representative to the UN for whom the vote partly justified the annexation of the oblasts of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Another area of ​​tension, same atmosphere. Last month, the billionaire proposed to Taiwan to acquire the status of “special administrative zone”, to reintegrate the Chinese bosom therefore, on the model of Hong Kong and Macao. If Taipei welcomed the idea freshly, Beijing gratified it with tax credits. Last week, Elon Musk finally called for people to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections in the United States, considering that “power sharing erases the worst excesses of each party, so I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, because the presidency is a Democrat”. This output “does not make Elon Musk a convinced Trumpist. They are in direct opposition on environmental issues,” emphasizes Fabrice Epelboin.

The Frankenstein moment

In his libertarian conception, states and laws hinder his quest for power. “He’s starting to cross lines and be dangerous, including to himself. Elon Musk’s success is partly based on a form of ambiguity. He went far enough to create a stir and make people talk about him without however taking sides with one camp or another. points out Olivier Lascar. Until then, this strategy of permanent buzz had proven beneficial for financiers likely to invest in its projects. The narration could now find its limits. This is the case with the SpaceX contract, renewed at the end of February by NASA – and therefore by the US government – ​​for the transport of astronauts to the International Space Station. His company thus took over from the Russian agency Roscosmos, which allowed scientists to travel using the Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX must also provide a lander as part of the Artemis missions back to the Moon.

However, poor relations with the White House could complicate Elon Musk’s plans for the benefit of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company. For Olivier Lascar, “Elon Musk is in his Frankenstein moment: the United States, which created him by organizing the rescue of SpaceX, might want to regain control over this monster which wanted to free itself from the tutelage of the United States as a ‘State “.

The UN and NASA raise their voices

Several points indicate that Washington could soon whistle the end of the game. Its project to colonize Mars, the heart of SpaceX, makes it possible to occupy the land and prevent eyes from turning to the colonization of low Earth orbit through the intermediary of Starlink satellites. This privatization of the web, a geopolitical question if ever there was one, nevertheless touches on the question of access to common goods. “These satellites prevent scientists from carrying out their observations. It is a step in the history of humanity and for the first time, in May, this question of the pollution of the sky and space was discussed at the UN. recalls Olivier Lascar. NASA is also worried about it. The space agency has produced a press release to denounce this visual pollution and the radio interference caused by these satellites.

In addition, President Biden, who encourages legislative boosts for the production of electric vehicles, regularly mentions General Motors and Ford but never Tesla, whose CEO was not invited to the meeting organized at the end of February with the automakers by the tenant of the White House. A standoff embodied by the “super bonus” granted to purchasers of electric cars produced on American soil and with unionized workers. This is not the case with Tesla, which only benefits from a partial bonus. Incarnation of the questions that arise in States around the sharing of powers with BigTech, Elon Musk embodies, according to Fabrice Epelboin, “the climax of what is happening on a small scale with Microsoft playing a political role in Africa”. Several decades later, states still do not seem sufficiently equipped to control these powerful actors.