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No, Elon Musk. Ukraine aid is the ultimate investment

Ukraine has destroyed half of Russia’s combat power with 5% of the US defense budget, and the tech magnate has reaped profits from the process. So, what’s up with Elon Musk’s tweets on Ukraine?
Elon Musk posted a meme on X/Twitter, making fun of the US aid to Ukraine
Elon Musk posted a meme on X/Twitter, making fun of the US aid to Ukraine. Photo: X @elonmusk
No, Elon Musk. Ukraine aid is the ultimate investment

Elon Musk posted a meme on X, formerly known as Twitter, making fun of the US aid to Ukraine. Specifically, the meme features a photoshopped image of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky with the caption, “When it’s been 5 min and you haven’t asked for a billion dollars in aid.”

Elon Musk posted a meme on X/Twitter, making fun of the US aid to Ukraine
Photo: screenshot

This post is a variation of a well-known internet meme, often called the “strained face meme,” which gained popularity in 2014.

The topic of military aid to Ukraine remains front and center in the American media landscape. The debate is understandable – the assistance involves taxpayer money and comes amid a contentious election.

Politicians and pundits across the spectrum vie to offer their takes on “how the Ukraine aid money could be better spent.” They argue the funds could have solved the homelessness crisis, rebuilt homes charred in the Hawaii wildfires, or provided healthcare to ailing Americans.

Nevertheless, American assistance to Ukraine doesn’t lead to any actual depletion of the US resources. Instead, it brings enrichment in various aspects. We will make an effort to clarify this.

Ukraine has destroyed 50% of Russia’s combat power with peanuts 

Let’s first look at how much money Washington has given Kyiv over the year and a half of full-scale war with Russia. The US has approved four rounds of aid packages for Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, totaling approximately $113 billion. However, according to calculations by The Washington Post, so far Ukraine has only received $43 billion in military assistance and $23 billion in macro-financial and humanitarian aid from those packages.

In 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the US defense budget was $715 billion. In 2023, the second year of the invasion, it increased to $858 billion. If we take all of the military assistance provided to Ukraine so far and calculate it as a percentage (although the aid has been provided for two consecutive years), it comes out to around 5% of the 2023 American defense budget.

What has this 5% of the US defense budget achieved? According to NYT, Russia’s military casualties are nearing 300,000, including fatalities and injuries.  And the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) says that  nearly half of Russia’s conventional military capability has now been destroyed.

“People ask me, ‘Is it worth it?’ Here’s what we’ve gotten for our investment. We haven’t lost one soldier. We reduced the combat power of the Russian army by 50%, and not one of us has died in that endeavor. This is a great deal for America,” noted American Senator Lindsey Graham.

Geopolitical gains: a clear message to China

Indeed, a pertinent question arises: why is the US taking these actions? Why undermine Russia’s military strength, potentially leading to the collapse of this empire? Some may argue that America should concentrate on domestic affairs and reduce its involvement in international politics.

Calls for isolationism are understandable, especially in light of the cultural divisions within the US, with some even fearing the prospect of a new civil war. However, no nation exists in isolation, particularly not the world’s wealthiest and most powerful one. The United States faces objective geopolitical rivals and threats that cannot be evaded or dismissed. One way or another, Washington has to confront them. 

Indeed, the prevailing consensus among commentators in the US is that China, rather than Russia, poses the most significant challenge. However, Beijing is closely monitoring the ongoing war in Ukraine, evidently assessing its own potential risks.

It’s no secret that China has been grappling with substantial economic difficulties: sluggish growth, record levels of youth unemployment, reduced foreign investment, weakened exports and currency, and a property sector in crisis. US President Joe Biden went so far as to describe the world’s second-largest economy as “a ticking time bomb.” 

While the causes of these challenges can be debated extensively, it is evident that the entrenched governance system and, notably, the concentration of power in the hands of Chinese leader Xi Jinping have played a substantial role. Western economists argue that an authoritarian political system is incongruent with the flexible, open economy necessary to achieve living standards commensurate with those in officially “high-income” countries. So, it’s logical that liberalization and democratization are the solution to China’s economic woes. However, on the surface, there lies another age-old answer. It revolves around the war over Taiwan.

Aiding Ukraine against Russian aggression sends a clear message to China that the US and its allies are committed to defending crucial interests. Given Russia’s struggles in Ukraine, this may prompt China to reconsider its potential success in a conflict against nations armed with advanced Western military technology. Also, the prospect of a Russian defeat would undermine the possibility of a Putin-Xi alliance, furthering the US’ strategic goal of containing China’s military capabilities.

Ukraine aid boosts the USA’s economy and solves disposal problems

Another significant point regarding assistance to Ukraine is that all the funds the US allocates for weaponry in Kyiv remain within the United States. Ukraine receives only the equipment, while the money is channeled to American defense companies or American citizens, including individuals like Elon Musk. This, in turn, results in the generation of additional employment opportunities within the US.

“In other words, these funds help boost the US economy in one way or another. Therefore, I believe military support for Ukraine is extremely advantageous for the United States, as it revitalizes the military-industrial complex. Additionally, for just 5-7% today, Americans can address the critical issue of the risks posed by the Russian army,” remarked Mikhailo Podoliak, an advisor to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that Ukraine is equipped with upgraded second-generation US technology. Consequently, providing arms to Ukraine also solves its eventual disposal problem. Disposing of such weaponry incurs expenses. For example, the program for destroying American chemical weapons spanned several decades and amounted to approximately $40 billion

Elon Musk himself has gained from America’s aid to Ukraine

Regarding Elon Musk, he stands to gain substantial advantages from American military aid to Ukraine. Documents obtained by CNN indicate that SpaceX has sought Pentagon funding for Starlink satellite services in Ukraine, with estimated costs of up to $400 million annually.

It’s plausible that since the US government is providing Musk with such significant financial support, it would also expect a high degree of accountability and compliance with contracts. Despite Musk’s status as one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, the US government probably maintains considerable oversight.

In a recent interview, Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukrainian intelligence, affirmed that Elon Musk consistently fulfills his commitments. They discussed Walter Isaacson’s book excerpt, which delves into whether Musk deactivated Starlink to prevent a Ukrainian attack on occupied Sevastopol last year.

“This specific case everybody’s referring to, there was a shutdown of the coverage over Crimea, but it wasn’t at that specific moment. That shutdown was for a month. There might have been some specific cases I’m not aware of. But I’m totally sure that throughout the whole first period of the war, there was no coverage at all. There have been no problems since it’s been turned on over Crimea,” said Budanov.

However, Musk frequently provides contentious comments about Ukraine, occasionally echoing Russian propaganda narratives. Consequently, he enjoys little popularity within the Ukrainian information sphere. Thus, Musk’s recent statement regarding assistance to Kyiv was received with considerable sensitivity, even prompting a response from Ruslan Stefanchuk, the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament.

Elon Musk posted a meme on X/Twitter, making fun of the US aid to Ukraine
Photo: screenshot

Other Ukrainian users mocked Musk by creating a collage featuring his photo wearing a Russian military uniform. 

Elon Musk posted a meme on X/Twitter, making fun of the US aid to Ukraine
Photo: screenshot

Nonetheless, it’s crucial to recognize the significant impact Starlink has had in Ukraine. The government in Kyiv, Ukrainian troops, NGOs, and civilians have all depended on the compact and user-friendly units provided by SpaceX. These units serve not only for voice and electronic communication but also play a vital role in drone operations and transmitting video feeds to facilitate precise artillery adjustments.

Musk is an influential and unconventional figure. He holds numerous interests in American politics, and his provocative social media posts likely serve his own, perhaps enigmatic, purposes. Therefore, as long as Starlink continues to operate effectively in Ukraine, it might be best to allow Elon Musk to be himself.

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