By Alya Shandra, for Euromaidan Press
Elon Musk thinks he found an easy solution to Russia’s war against Ukraine: for Ukraine to, essentially, surrender. Here are six reasons why that is wrong.
On 3 October, business magnate and investor Elon Musk flexed his geopolitical biceps with a series of tweets that had Ukrainians asking if he was hacked by the Kremlin.
What if, Elon Musk asked his 107 million followers, the end to Russia’s war in Ukraine was as easy as the people living in Donbas and Crimea deciding whether they are part of Russia or Ukraine, allowing Russia to keep occupying Crimea “as it has been since 1783,” and Ukraine revoking its NATO aspirations?
Ostensibly, Elon Musk was moved by the best intentions in his tweet on Ukraine: caring about Ukrainians, whose victory, he says “is unlikely in total war.”
His tweets were answered by a wide array of world politicians, diplomats, influencers, and NAFO fellas. Let’s sum up the arguments as to what’s wrong with Elon Musk’s proposals and tweets on Ukraine.
1. Ukraine’s victory is actually very likely
Throughout history, there have been countless military victories against the odds. Combatants who were willing to sacrifice for a cause and their comrades have often won over more powerful forces. The US losing the war in Vietnam, the Winter War in which Finland resisted the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1939, 5,000 Christian troops in Malta resisting the siege of 70,000 Ottomans in 1565, and the Battle of Saragahri, present-day Pakistan, which was won by Sikhs who were outnumbered by Afghans 500 to 1 in 1897 are all examples of prevailing military powers losing to better-motivated forces defending their homeland from invaders.
Training also plays a role. For example, the Battle of Lacolle Mills, where better-trained and motivated British soldiers won over the Americans despite being outnumbered 12 to 1. The situation in Ukraine is reminiscent of this battle. Ukrainian troops are now overwhelmingly better-trained than the average Russian ones, and Ukraine’s NATO allies are setting up additional training programs for newcomers.
Moreover, Ukraine is having sustained material military support from the West while Russia has little to no support from allies.
Ukraine is both better-motivated and better-trained than Russia. Ukrainians are defending their land, they have nowhere else to go. This is why they are standing to their death and winning, surprising their allies time after time, cutting off Russian supply lines, breaking through Russia’s defense in surprise assaults, and bombing its ammunition depots with high-precision weapons from allies.
As well, Ukraine is coming up with more and more creative ways to push back the invaders, and even conducts ingenious attacks on airfields in occupied Crimea, forcing Russia to relocate its air force and even submarines outside of the occupied peninsula.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Russian men have fled Russia’s mobilization. As I write this, Russian troops are fleeing from the advance of the Ukrainian Army in northeastern Ukraine, they are demotivated and poorly equipped. Newcomers are sent to the front with little training. Analysts do not believe that Putin’s snap mobilization will change much on the battlefield.
And, most importantly, Ukrainians themselves believe in their victory and are motivated to free their land from Russian occupation.
So, Elon Musk, the premise for your tweet on Ukraine is fundamentally wrong: Ukraine is not destined to lose to Russia. Right now, actually, the odds are tilted in Ukraine’s favor. On the contrary, if Russia is allowed to win, the outcome will truly be devastating for Ukraine and the world: not only will it regroup its forces to attack Ukraine again, but it will strengthen itself and have a new bridgehead for its aggression against the West.
2. Ukraine was neutral when Russia invaded it
Russian propaganda claims that it invaded Ukraine because the country wanted to join NATO. But actually, Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when Crimea was occupied, happened while Ukraine was a neutral state. Support for NATO membership only skyrocketed in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country in 2014. Unsurprisingly, it has risen even more with Russia’s full-blown 2022 invasion and is at an all-time high: a current Rating poll found that 83% of Ukrainians support Ukraine’s NATO membership.
Moreover, Russia’s reaction to Finland and Sweden declaring they want to join NATO showed very clearly that NATO-bashing was only an excuse for Russia to wage war against Ukraine. Then, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov stated it would probably make “not much difference” that two major countries on Russia’s border would join the very alliance it claims is a mortal threat sufficient enough ato invade Ukraine.
Russia’s war was never about NATO, so, consequently, no declaration of Ukraine’s neutrality can end it. Russia’s war, however, is all about destroying Ukraine as an independent state and Ukrainians as a nation.
Repeating Russia’s anti-NATO propaganda is not a sign of cleverness, Elon Musk.
3. The part about Crimea is historical nonsense. And it belongs to its indigenous population, the Crimean Tatars
In 1783, the Russian Empire (not Russia!) indeed invaded Crimea. Before that, it was ruled by the Crimean Khanate, a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. So why stop at the Russian Empire, which doesn’t even exist now, maybe let’s give Crimea back to Erdogan (of course, if he threatens the world enough)? And after Crimea, why shouldn’t Russia get back Alaska — it used to be Russian, too?
In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev indeed transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. However, this was no mistake — it was done purposefully: because Crimea was reliant on mainland Ukraine and because Crimea suffered greatly after WWII. Ukraine literally rebuilt it from ruins. And Russia had no regrets: in 1991, during the breakup of the Soviet Union, it raised no questions about Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, Crimea included.
Last but not least — if Crimea does belong to anybody, it is to its indigenous population, the Crimean Tatars. Soviet dictator Stalin had fully deported them from Crimea in 1944 and replaced them with ethnic Russians to the peninsula, i.e. committed yet another act of genocide.
After the peninsula’s occupation in 2014, Russia launched a process termed “hybrid deportation,” taking revenge on the Crimean Tatars who had put up the greatest resistance to Russian occupation and forcing many to leave the homeland they had just acquired after returning from exile in Central Asia.
Over a hundred Crimean Tatar prisoners are languishing in prisons, being sentenced for their faith and pro-Ukrainian resistance, and the Crimean Tatar leaders, expelled from their ancestral homeland, mince no words in denouncing Russia’s persecution of their people.
Moreover, in yet another genocidal tint to Russia’s murderous invasion of Ukraine, in Crimea mobilization summonses have been disproportionately handed out to Crimean Tatars, whom the Russian [imperial] leadership wants to “utilize” in its war just like other ethnic minorities in Russia (most notably, the Buryats).
Don’t let your historical ignorance support the genocide of indigenous nations, Elon Musk.
4. Russian occupation brings death and terror to Ukrainians, erases Ukrainian identity
By suggestiing that Russia could have sovereignty over the lands it annexed after a propaganda show it called a “referendum,” Elon Musk’s tweet on Ukraine ignores the fact that millions of Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territories are living through hell on earth.
Mass graves are found in all territories from which the Ukrainian Army expels Russia. Russian soldiers have tortured and killed civilians simply for being Ukrainian. Numerous filtration camps have been set up on Russian-occupied territory. Ukrainian books have been seized and Russia is preparing to brainwash Ukrainian schoolchildren into Russia’s version of reality, erasing their Ukrainian identity and thus potentially creating more cannon fodder ready to die and kill for Russian imperial whims.
Why do you want more death and suffering of Ukrainians, Elon Musk?
5. The Ukrainians Russia killed can’t take part in Elon Musk’s vote
Let’s start by recalling that Ukrainians in all Ukrainian regions voted for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. And they had no problems with that decision before Russia invaded. Movements to secede from Ukraine and join Russia simply did not exist.
Moreover, Musk’s proposal of “UN supervision” of “elections” in Russian-occupied regions runs against the UN’s charter and the Geneva Convention, which is ratified by all UN member states. This makes it an absurd proposal.
Particularly, because the 1945 UN Charter co-signed by Russia forbids the use of force against the territorial integrity or independence of another state. Moreover, according to the 1949 Geneva Convention, an occupying power cannot change the status or annex territory of another state when hostilities are ongoing and that a decision on the status of occupied territories can be settled only as a result of peace negotiation after hostilities have ended.
There can be no legitimate elections held during an occupation. Any legitimate vote means opposing parties have equal access to media and agitation, which is impossible under Russian occupation. Thus, any kind of legitimate discussion of the desires of the local population can start only after Russian troops leave the territory they occupy.
But even if we imagine such an absurd vote could take place, who would vote? Would Ukrainians who fled the occupied regions be invited to vote and how would that be carried out? Would the Russians who Russia resettled instead of the Ukrainians it killed and forced to flee vote? How would the Ukrainians who were for eight years subjected to Russian brainwashing in Donbas and Crimea vote? And, most importantly, how would the 87,000 Ukrainians who Russia killed in Mariupol vote?
Would you bring back the dead for the vote, Elon Musk?
6. If Russia wins in Ukraine, more wars will follow as the aggressor will grow stronger
If aggressors are appeased, they grow stronger. This should really be apparent to everyone from our experience of World War II, but for some reason, it is not for Elon Musk.
Let’s imagine that Russia wins in Ukraine, as he proposes: Ukraine abandons NATO aspirations and Russia keeps occupying the territories it stole from Ukraine. Under these conditions, Ukraine will be largely cut off from the sea, and Russia would continue its aggression and gradually turn Ukraine into a client state like Belarus.
This would allow Russia to get stronger, more powerful, and have more potential to attack not only Ukraine but other countries in the vicinity, as it would be emboldened by the West’s refusal to defend the values of self-determination and freedom it proclaims fundamental to democracy, and Ukraine’s resistance to this authoritarian horde would be undermined.
What other countries are you ready to sacrifice in order to not hear Putin’s nuclear sabre-rattling, Elon Musk? Would you accept a sacrifice of the Baltic States or Poland? Would you sacrifice the USA, where you live, or South Africa, where you were born?
If not, why are you ready to sacrifice Ukraine? And what makes you think that Putin will stop there?
Elon Musk, the only acceptable end to Russia’s war in Ukraine is:
- Russia gets out, including Donbas and Crimea
- Ukraine joins NATO
- Russia pays reparations to Ukraine
By Alya Shandra, for Euromaidan Press