Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who served as advisor to former President Donald Trump told POLITICO that billionaire Elon Musk is “transmitting a message” for Russian President Vladimir Putin with his tweet about a proposal to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Musk tweeted a so-called “peace plan” which involves Ukraine permanently giving Crimea to Russia and that new referendums be held by the United Nations to determine the fate of four Ukrainian territories recently annexed by Russia, all while Ukraine remains neutral.
Hill told POLITICO that, “it’s very clear Musk is transmitting a message for Putin.” She said Musk made a similar statement at a September event in Aspen, Colo., suggesting that Crimea remains a part of Russia, and that other Ukrainian territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia should be considered parts of Russia as well for guaranteed water supply to Crimea.
“He made this suggestion before Putin’s annexation of those two territories on September 30. It was a very specific reference. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia essentially control all the water supplies to Crimea,” Hill said. “Crimea is a dry peninsula. It has aquifers, but it doesn’t have rivers. It’s dependent on water from the Dnipro River that flows through a canal from Kherson. It’s unlikely Elon Musk knows about this himself. The reference to water is so specific that this clearly is a message from Putin.”
Hill explained that it is a “classic Putin play” to use “prominent people as intermediaries to feel out the general political environment, to basically test how people are going to react to ideas.”
“It’s just fascinating, of course, that it’s Elon Musk in this instance, because obviously Elon Musk has a huge Twitter following” Hill said, and “he’s one of the most popular men in opinion polls in Russia.”
Musk conducted a Twitter poll asking his more than 100 million Twitter followers to weigh in on his proposed plan. More than 2.5 million votes were cast. About 60% opposed the plan.
“Putin plays the egos of big men, gives them a sense that they can play a role. But in reality, they’re just direct transmitters of messages from Vladimir Putin,” Hill said.