Twitter, Starlink… How Elon Musk wants to conduct his own foreign policy

Twitter, Starlink… How Elon Musk wants to conduct his own foreign policy

The businessman, who has just bought Twitter, does not hide his ambition to influence the course of history. Evidenced by his choices in Ukraine.

By Guerric Poncet

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Lhe acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk for 44 billion dollars, announced on Friday, October 28, is not only an extraordinary financial operation. It is also for the billionaire to acquire one more tool to conduct his own foreign policy by taking control of a planetary platform that can promote the exercise of freedom of expression. Brilliant, contested, irritable and immensely rich, Elon Musk continues to lead his boat as he sees fit.

The man does not hide it: he uses his companies to influence the course of history. By giving Ukraine access to its Starlink constellation, for example, it enabled the army and the population of the country to continue to communicate effectively despite the Russian attacks which devastated the telecommunications infrastructure. While Russian soldiers were reduced to using unsecured phone lines because their encrypted systems no longer worked, Ukrainian servicemen equipped with Starlink terminals could video-conference with their headquarters or instantly download the latest satellite images of enemy positions.

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SpaceX depends on the Pentagon and NASA

“The influence of the private sector, and in particular of Starlink, is the great novelty of this war”, confided to us a senior French officer who closely studies the conflict. “Business owners can conduct their foreign policy, which is not always perfectly aligned with the interests of their country of origin,” he adds. Thus, Elon Musk, after offering his communication system, threatened Ukraine in mid-October to cut off access to Starlink.

Officially, the bill had become too heavy for SpaceX: its emblematic boss therefore asked the Pentagon to finance the 20 million dollars monthly that the service costs. In reality, Elon Musk considers that certain territories belong legitimately to Russia, in particular Crimea, and that referendums must be organized, which he writes moreover in a tweet which triggers the fury of kyiv. The boss then evolves on a highly diplomatic ground.

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After a few dozen hours of hesitation, Elon Musk withdraws his request, finally promising not to turn off the tap. In a new tweet, he gets angry: “To the devil! We will continue to fund the Ukrainian government while other companies receive billions for it. »

Why such a turnaround? Perhaps the Pentagon reminded him that without its dozens of rocket launches ordered each year at exorbitant prices – some analysts even speak of disguised subsidies – SpaceX would not survive long. NASA, for its part, provided SpaceX with crucial data to develop the engines of its rockets.

The private enters the international game

This had allowed Elon Musk to win markets against competitors in the private space launch sector, such as Blue Origin or United Launch Alliance, and to save hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development thanks to work carried out in previous decades out of federal funds.

What puts into perspective the Ukrainian bill of a few tens of millions of dollars, which allows the massive aid granted by the White House (more than 20 billion dollars since 2014) to be used much more effectively by kyiv. For this time, Elon Musk could not apply his own foreign policy, but he did enter the diplomatic game and has powerful cards in his hand for the next battles.

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