Monday, December 4, 2023

Elon Musk’s ‘peace’ plan for Ukraine conflict: The end game for US and its allies?

By Thareendra Kalpage. 

On Monday, Elon Musk held a poll on Twitter offering four potential solutions to the Ukraine conflict. 

I think Elon’s initiative is a good idea, even though it’s been unsolicited. It is because the United States and its western allies don’t know for sure if the Russian president is bluffing with his nuclear threats or not. Things appear to be getting worse in Ukraine. It’s undeniable that nuclear threats and calls for mobilization have been made. It makes you question the state of contemporary diplomacy. 

Underestimating President Putin is too dangerous, and the consequences could be felt globally, not just in the United States. Elon Musk’s direction is admirable to me for this reason.

Below are Musk’s Proposals 

  1. Rather than relying on the results of the fraudulent elections that Russia just held in four regions of Ukraine, Elon’s plan calls for a new round of elections to be monitored by the United Nations. Also, it is in favour of Russian troops leaving. 
  1. Ukraine accepts Russia’s official claim of Crimea as part of its territory. 
  1. Ukraine to restore the Crimean Peninsula’s water supply.
  1. Ukraine will maintain its neutrality. They will also not seek NATO membership. 

Here is where I think Elon is correct. Whether we like it or not, truth is truth, and it appears that Elon recognizes this. There are only two ways for this war to end: with Russia victorious or Ukraine making concessions. Thus, it should come as no surprise, and it’s optimistic to think that Kyiv can take on and defeat a nuclear power. Indeed, this is the common consensus among experts in the field. So, yes, Elon is right about that. There seems to be no reason to risk the lives of thousands of soldiers to put off something inevitable.

Here is where my business icon Elon and I differ. Focus on the most critical factor. If its citizens so demand, Russia will withdraw. Musk desires the removal of Russian troops from occupied territories if the locals so want. Vladimir Putin would not have invaded in the first place if he were concerned about the United Nations Charter or any other law. Russia will never accept a vote overseen by the UN. 

Regardless of the outcome, they will not leave. I do not fully comprehend Elon’s plans for global peace for this very reason. The United Nations will require everyone’s assistance in this endeavour, and everyone will need to collaborate. Plus, let’s be honest: such a high level of coordination, dedication, and honesty are improbable, and there would never have been a war if things were that easy.

While Elon’s plan has some sound logic, there is another issue besides the one I mentioned earlier. Perception. What is the reasoning behind this? Because this is exactly what Russia generally desires: Crimea, neutrality, and Donbas. So, Elon’s proposal grants Russia the majority of its wishes, which may not be popular, even though it has the potential to prevent the next world war.

So, Elon’s Plan has Practical and Impractical aspects, but his core objective remains solid. We cannot afford another World War without the destructive technology we have.

So, what is the best strategy for the United States and its allies to achieve the most favourable outcome for their camp? Here are my recommendations if I worked at the US State Department:

  • Consider the situation from the perspective of US State Department officers; they must be asking themselves, “What’s in it for us?” and “Why should we risk our security for the Donbas region?” The stakes aren’t high for us, and we may be sleepwalking into a global conflict by escalating a regional one. We can compare the current situation in the Donbas region to that of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Recommend reading the book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is historian Christopher Clark’s riveting account of the explosive beginnings of World War I.) We have no historical significance, and it can trigger a world war. So, there is no need for military involvement at the ground level. 
  • The most effective strategy would be for the United States to demonstrate that Vladimir Putin is no longer as powerful as he once was and exhaust his resources. This would finally create a path to get him out of the office or a regime change out of extortion of resources.
  • Be aware that Putin is likely not buffing, and here’s why. Based on our strategy in a card game, none of us would assume that we know what cards our opponent has. We accomplish this by assigning a probability range to each possible card combination held by our opponent. We then examine his past behaviour to predict the likely outcome of his future actions or his story. So, what is the story that Putin’s past actions tell us now? We must play it smart because he is not bluffing.

So, strategize while recognizing the chance that Putin will blow up the tactical nuke, which is not zero. If his life were in danger, he would certainly consider the option. However, in the current situation, his life is not in danger. Still, any unfavourable outcome from this war could lead to that, and Putin is aware of this.

Here are the critical components of my wait-and-see strategy.

  • Postpone Ukraine’s accession to NATO for the time being and let the preceding strategy play out. Currently, the rate of problems created by such onboarding is higher than the rate of the issues solved.
  • Refusing to recognize Russia’s official claim to Crimea as part of its territory. Better and broader alternatives emerge as time passes. For the time being, restore the Crimean Peninsula’s water supply.
  • Define the goal, whether it is to help bring this conflict to an end through a settlement that allows for a sovereign Ukraine and some kind of relationship between the US and Russia. Is the US now attempting to weaken Russia permanently? Has the administration’s goal shifted to destabilizing or removing Vladimir Putin? The Middle East showed that regime change could have unanticipated consequences. I would prefer to have a less powerful Vladimir Putin in power who cannot challenge the US. 

(The writer is a highly regarded entrepreneur, startup investor, business leader, contributor to numerous print and digital media news channels, and an avid observer of the global political landscape, economy, and technological and social developments.)

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