Billionaire Elon Musk once again raised concerns about the possibility that the Russian invasion of Ukraine could turn into a nuclear war on Monday, this time laying out a scenario where Ukrainian efforts to take back Crimea set off a nuclear war.
On Monday, Musk retweeted an Oct. 4 Newsweek op-ed from venture capitalist David Sacks, which praised his calls for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
After a Twitter follower replied to Musk’s tweet to ask he still thinks there’s a possibility of a nuclear war or World War III, Musk replied with his latest scenario for a nuclear war.
“If Russia is faced with the choice of losing Crimea or using battlefield nukes, they will choose the latter. We’ve already sanctioned/cutoff Russia in every possible way, so what more do they have left to lose? If we nuke Russia back, they will nuke us and then we have WW3,” Musk tweeted.
“Whether one likes it or not, Crimea is absolutely seen as a core part of Russia by Russia,” Musk added. “Crimea is also of critical national security importance to Russia, as it is their southern navy base. From their standpoint losing Crimea is like USA losing Hawaii & Pearl Harbor.”
Russia had controlled the Crimean peninsula since the 1700s. In 1954 the then-first secretary of the communist party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev authorized the transfer of Crimea from Soviet Russia to then-Soviet Ukraine.
In 2014, Russia reasserted control over Crimea once again, following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a president who had been on friendlier terms with the modern government. Russia has maintained control of Crimea since 2014, though the current Ukrainian government has vowed that Ukraine will retake control of Crimea.
A Twitter user replied to Musk saying, “This is simply conjecture. There is nothing more to this than your own view on the importance of Crimea to Russia which has never used nuclear arms in a battle before. Also, US/NATO mad it very clear that they will destroy the Russian army if the later goes nuclear.”
“If Russia faces destruction of their army and utter defeat by NATO, they will use nukes, then NATO will respond with nukes and civilization is over,” Musk replied.
In a tweet earlier this month, Musk shared his peace proposal for Russia and Ukraine. One of the peace terms Musk laid out was “Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake)” referring to the 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine.
Musk also called for Ukraine to commit to not cutting off the flow of water from Ukraine into Crimea.
In addition to formally giving Crimea to Russia, Musk also proposed redoing recent referenda in which eastern Ukrainian territories voted to become part of Russia. Musk said those votes should be redone under United Nations supervision, with the condition that Russian forces would leave if the vote does not go their way. Musk also called for Ukraine to commit to neutrality between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Ukrainian officials have largely rejected Musk’s peace proposal. One Ukrainian diplomat even told the billionaire businessman to “f-ck off.”
Crimea could indeed prove to be a crucial part of a potential peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine.
Ian Bremmer, the founder of the foreign policy consultancy Eurasia Group, claimed last week that Musk had spoken directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin before he had tweeted his peace proposal. Bremmer claimed Putin told Musk that Russia is “prepared to negotiate,” but only if Crimea remained in Russian control. Musk has since denied having had this conversation with Putin.
It remains to be seen if Ukraine will actually try to retake control of Crimea and if that would create a scenario where Russia would then resort to using nuclear weapons.
Putin, and other Russian officials, have repeatedly alluded to using nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction “in the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country.”