Elon Musk should have enough on his plate right now, what with Tesla’s disappointing third quarter and all the embarrassing texts and bad news emerging from Twitter’s lawsuit holding him accountable to his $44 billion purchase of the social-media platform. But on Monday, the billionaire added a diplomatic effort to his serial-entrepreneur résumé by sharing his idea for how to end the war in Ukraine.
Hours after posting a cartoon of a T-Rex taking a shower, Musk put up a poll for his 107 million Twitter followers about a hypothetical referendum for the people of the four regions of eastern Ukraine illegally annexed last week by Russia, where the residents would decide which country to live in. If Ukraine and Russia agreed to the vote, Moscow would get a sweetener: Formal recognition of the illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea, with full water rights and Ukrainian neutrality.
After some pushback by supporters of Ukraine, he reworded the poll with some success: “Let’s try this then: the will of people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine.” While the first poll had 63.8 percent of the 1.4 million respondents voting no, 54.6 percent of the 973,000 voters said that the people of eastern Ukraine and Crimea should have the right to join the country of their choosing.
As the polls gained traction, even Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky shared his opinion:
Musk has one important point in his thread: It’s important not to underestimate the potential for a nuclear exchange, even if it’s “unlikely.” But the billionaire’s claim that a U.N.-supervised vote is “highly likely to be the outcome in the end” isn’t exactly consistent with Vladimir Putin’s oppositional relationship to the body: Russia vetoed a U.N. effort to invalidate the annexation of Crimea and just vetoed a measure condemning last’s week annexation. That Putin would allow the U.N. into Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine to oversee an election that Russia could lose is highly unlikely to be the outcome.