Ukraine expressed dissatisfaction with billionaire Elon Musk’s refusal to provide Starlink for a planned attack on Crimea, leading to a recent exchange between Musk and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky regarding financial support from the US and its allies amid tensions with Russia. Musk took to his X (formerly Twitter) platform on Sunday to mock Zelensky’s request for additional aid. He shared a popular meme featuring the image of a stressed-out student, with Zelensky’s face photoshopped onto it, accompanied by the caption, “When it’s been five minutes and you haven’t asked for a billion dollars in aid.”
Musk’s post quickly gained significant attention, garnering more than 25 million views and over 350,000 likes. The meme used, commonly known as the ‘stressed guy’ meme, is often shared to depict frustrating or uncomfortable situations humorously.
Zelensky had sought increased support from the US during his visit to Washington in September, expressing concerns that without aid, Ukraine may lose the ongoing war with Russia. However, the last-minute budget deal struck by the US Congress over the weekend did not include any funding specifically for Ukraine, which sparked further debate within the US political landscape.
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, among the Republicans opposing the Biden administration’s request for an additional $6 billion in aid to Ukraine, argued that protecting America’s borders should be the priority. Despite such debates, since the conflict with Russia began in February 2022, the US has already provided approximately $46 billion in assistance to Ukraine.
The relationship between Musk and Ukraine has faced ups and downs during the conflict. Initially, SpaceX, the company led by Musk, donated $80 million worth of Starlink satellite internet terminals to Ukraine, which proved crucial for the country’s communication infrastructure during the war. However, tensions arose after Musk proposed a peace plan last October. His plan suggested redoing the elections of annexed regions in Ukraine under UN supervision, while Ukraine would commit to neutrality and drop its claim to Crimea. This proposal faced backlash from Ukraine, with Zelensky even launching a poll on social media asking followers to choose which version of Elon Musk they “like more” – the one that supports Ukraine or the one that supports Russia. These incidents were followed by reports of technical issues with the Starlink services used by the Ukrainian military.
Historian Walter Isaacson, in his biography of Musk released in September, described an episode where Musk allegedly ordered the shutdown of Starlink satellite internet coverage in Crimea during an attempted Ukrainian drone attack on the Russian peninsula. Musk concluded that allowing the use of Starlink for the attack would have disastrous consequences for the world.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mikhail Podoliak criticized Musk’s decision, accusing him of “committing evil and encouraging evil” due to a combination of ignorance and a big ego.
As tensions persist between Ukraine and Russia, the question of aid and support from the US and its allies remains a subject of debate. While Musk’s mocking post brings attention to the issue, the ultimate resolution to the conflict and assistance for Ukraine continue to be key concerns for the international community.