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Elon Musk, Republican senators lobby against passage of Ukraine aid

by Nate Ostiller February 13, 2024 3:35 PM 3 min read
Elon Musk, billionaire and chief executive officer of Tesla, at the Viva Tech fair in Paris, France, on Friday, June 16, 2023. (Nathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Businessman Elon Musk appeared in a live conversation on X on Feb. 12 along with Republican senators and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, where the participants broadly argued against the passage of $60 billion in U.S. aid for Ukraine.

The bill was passed by the Senate early on Feb. 13 and will now go to the Republican-controlled House, where it still faces significant obstacles.  

Musk gained praise across Ukraine at the beginning of the full-scale invasion for helping the country access the internet through his Starlink network. He then made numerous comments that angered Ukrainians, including the suggestion that Ukrainian territory be exchanged for a peace deal with Russia.  

Musk has continued to amplify opinions reminiscent of Russian propaganda, drawing public rebukes from Ukrainian officials. Republican Senator JD Vance, who was on the X Spaces conversation with Musk, has been one of the most outspoken opponents of aid for Ukraine in the Senate.  

"There is no way in hell" that Russia could lose the war, Musk told the other participants, as cited by Bloomberg.

"This spending does not help Ukraine. Prolonging the war does not help Ukraine," he added.

Senator Ron Johnson agreed, saying that those who think a Ukrainian victory is possible are "living in a fantasy world."

Vance said, "we gotta kill this thing," in reference to the aid bill that was passed by the Senate.  

Vance, Johnson, and Senator Mike Lee, who also participated in the conversation, all voted against the bill earlier on Feb. 13.

Musk said he was aware that he has been called an apologist for Russian President Vladimir Putin but said the charges were "absurd."

At the same time, Musk's views on the war were reflected elsewhere online. He retweeted an interview that Vance gave on Feb. 12 with the far-right commentator Tucker Carlson, who gained global attention and condemnation days before for interviewing Putin in Moscow.

In the interview, Vance and Carlson made a series of unsubstantiated claims and controversial comments, which Musk shared with the caption: "this demands closer scrutiny."

Carlson said that Ukraine is not a democracy and claimed that 400,000 Ukrainians have died since the full-scale invasion, but said that the figure came from "reliable estimates in the area" without specifying the source. He also did not say if the figure included military and civilian casualties.

Carlson has a long track record of demonstrably false statements. His lies about the U.S. presidential election in 2020 partially resulted in his former employer, Fox News, losing a $787 million defamation lawsuit.  

Ukraine does not publicly disclose its military casualties, but Western estimates are typically significantly lower than the figure Carlson cited. The UN estimated in January 2024 that around 10,000 civilians have been killed since the full-scale invasion, but Ukrainian officials believe the number is likely many times higher.

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Speaking again about the aid bill just passed by the Senate, Vance said the legislation was specifically designed to "tie a future President (Donald) Trump's hands."

Trump, who is currently the frontrunner to be the Republican candidate for president, has said his primary goal regarding the war would be to have an immediate peace deal within 24 hours. He has not specified the terms of the potential deal.

"(Congress is) trying to make it impossible for the next president to conduct diplomacy on his own terms," Vance said.

Vance went on to repeat common Republican talking points about the need to focus on what he considers to be more important problems, both domestically and abroad.  

"It's a massive campaign to distract people from the real problems in the world," Vance concluded.

US Senate passes Ukraine aid bill
The bill, which received 70 votes in favor and 29 against, will now go to the Republican-led House, where it still faces significant obstacles.
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