SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk argued on Monday that Russia views Crimea as an integral part of its territory, and that Ukrainian or Western attempts to seize the peninsula could end in nuclear war. While Musk has previously backtracked on pulling his technological support for Ukraine, he has courted controversy for insisting that Crimea is Russia.
“If Russia is faced with the choice of losing Crimea or using battlefield nukes, they will choose the latter,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “We’ve already sanctioned/cutoff Russia in every possible way, so what more do they have left to lose?” he asked, in response to a commenter asking him whether he reckoned the Ukraine conflict could devolve into a nuclear war.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has repeatedly stated that he intends to seize control of Crimea, along with the four former regions of Ukraine that recently voted to join the Russian Federation. Crimea overwhelmingly voted to rejoin Russia in 2014, and therefore falls under the protection of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.
As President Vladimir Putin has stated, Russia’s nuclear doctrine allows the state to defend itself with “all available means” if its existence is threatened.
“Whether one likes it or not, Crimea is absolutely seen as a core part of Russia by Russia,” Musk continued. “Crimea is also of critical national security importance to Russia, as it is their southern navy base. From their standpoint losing Crimea is like [the] USA losing Hawaii & Pearl Harbor.”
rimea was formally a part of Russia from 1783 until it was gifted to the Ukrainian SSR by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. Musk claimed earlier this month that Khrushchev’s decision was a “mistake,” and suggested that Ukraine abandon its claim to the peninsula as part of a future peace deal with Russia.
Musk’s peace plan was condemned by Ukrainian officials and their supporters online, with Ukraine’s former ambassador to Germany, Andrey Melnik, telling the billionaire to “f**k off.” Musk then said that he would take Melnik’s advice and stop providing free Starlink internet access to Ukraine, which he said would cost SpaceX $400 million to run throughout 2023.
Around the same time that he was reportedly placed on a notorious Kiev-backed ‘kill list’, Musk abruptly U-turned on his plan to cut Ukraine off, announcing “to hell with it… we’ll just keep funding [the] Ukraine government for free.”