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

The entrepreneur, who recently bought Twitter, has made no secret of his ambition to influence the course of history. Proved by his choices in Ukraine.

By Guerric Poncet

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Lthe 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 get another tool to conduct his own foreign policy by taking control of a planetary platform that can promote the exercise of freedom of expression. Brilliant, controversial, irascible and very rich, Elon Musk continues to steer 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 allows the country’s army and population to continue to communicate effectively despite Russian attacks that have destroyed telecommunications infrastructure. While Russian soldiers are reduced to using unsecured phone lines because their encrypted systems no longer work, Ukrainian servicemen equipped with Starlink terminals can video-conference with their headquarters or instantly download the latest satellite images of enemy positions.

READ ALSOStarlink for Ukraine: Elon Musk’s dangerous help

SpaceX depends on the Pentagon and NASA

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

Officially, the bill has become too heavy for SpaceX: its emblematic boss has asked the Pentagon to finance the 20 million dollars monthly that the service spends. In fact, Elon Musk considers that some territories are legitimate property of Russia, in particular Crimea, and referendums should be organized, which he writes in a tweet that triggered the anger of kyiv . The boss then evolves into a high diplomatic ground.

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After several dozen hours of hesitation, Elon Musk withdrew his request, finally promising not to turn off the faucet. In a new tweet, he raged: “To the devil! We will continue to fund the government of Ukraine while other companies receive billions for it. »

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

The private has entered the international game

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

What gives insight into the Ukrainian bill of several tens of millions of dollars, which allows the enormous aid granted by the White House (more than 20 billion dollars since 2014) to be used more effectively by kyiv. For this time, Elon Musk cannot apply his own foreign policy, but he entered the diplomatic game and has powerful cards in his hand for the next battles.

READ ALSOInside the mind of Elon Musk, the new boss of Twitter

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