What is Elon Musk up to when he’s not blaming the Jews for his own incompetence, platforming Nazis and racists, or being refused entry to German sex clubs? Apparently, the answer is “getting played by Russian officials.”
Elon Musk foiled an attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet last year by refusing to let Ukraine use his satellite network to guide its drones, Mr. Musk has acknowledged, provoking a furious response from a top official in Kyiv and renewing questions about the global power wielded by a multibillionaire businessman.
As Dan Drezner writes:
The more one reads, however, the less sympathy that Musk earns. As the Lyngaas story makes clear, Musk’s concern about escalation came from his conversations with senior Russian officials. It never seems to have occurred to Elon Musk that the Russians had a powerful incentive to play him.1 That lack of awareness is due entirely to Musk’s emaciated theory of mind.
Isaacson notes that, “Musk has liked to imagine himself as a hero rushing to the rescue, engaged in epic quests. He was deeply into comics, and the single-minded passion of the superheroes impressed him.” For someone who seem to like acting and cosplaying like a superhero, however, Musk fails to comprehend that with great power comes great responsibility. He has not just made himself a willing dupe of Russian officials; he has avoided interacting with anyone who disagrees with him.
One social media executive told the Atlantic’s Charlie Warzel last year in reaction to reading Musk’s published text messages, “There’s no real strategic thought or analysis. It’s just emotional and done without any real care for consequence.” That seems to apply to his thinking about international relations as well. When Musk tried to articulate his views on Ukraine late last year, he got his ass handed to him by a heterogenous group of individuals, all of whom knew the situation in Ukraine better than he did. That could have been an inflection point for Musk to realize he needed to talk to some experts. Instead, he continues to swallow whatever Russian officials are selling him.
According to Isaacson’s jacket copy, “At the beginning of 2022—after a year marked by SpaceX launching thirty-one rockets into orbit, Tesla selling a million cars, and him becoming the richest man on earth—Musk spoke ruefully about his compulsion to stir up dramas. ‘I need to shift my mindset away from being in crisis mode, which it has been for about fourteen years now, or arguably most of my life.’”
Had the attack succeeded, it would have degraded Moscow’s ongoing efforts to kill and terrorize Ukrainian civilians with cruise missiles. Thanks, Elon!