Speed Reads


Elon Musk denies report he spoke with Putin before tweeting Kremlin-friendly Ukraine 'peace' plan

Elon Musk is "the world's richest man and the tech world's equivalent of a rock star, which brings him into contact with a motley parade of people at glittering gatherings all over the world, with occasionally awkward results," The New York Times reported Tuesday in a long look at the Tesla CEO's eclectic social life. Musk bragged Tuesday he got longtime friend Kanye "Ye" West to think hard about his antisemitic social media posts, for example.

But Musk did not speak directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin before proposing a plan to end Russia's war in Ukraine, he said Tuesday. 

Musk's "Ukraine-Russia peace plan," which he tweeted out last week, "reflected demands Kremlin officials have made repeatedly in recent months," CNN notes. The Kremlin and Russian state media loved the plan; Ukraine hated it.

Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group geopolitical consultancy, told clients Tuesday that he "spoke with Elon two weeks ago, and he told me Putin (in a direct conversation with him) was 'prepared to negotiate' ... and had outlined the minimum the Russian president would require to end the war," Vice News reports. The three minium components were the same as Musk's tweet, plus Ukraine's recognition of four Ukrainian provinces Russia just illegally annexed. 

Musk responded on Twitter that he has "spoken to Putin only once and that was about 18 months ago," and "the subject matter was space." Bremmer repeated his assertion, and Musk suggested he's lying. 

"I have been writing my weekly newsletter on geopolitics for 24 years," Bremmer wrote. "I write honestly without fear or favor and this week's update was no different. I've long admired Musk as a unique and world-changing entrepreneur, which I've said publicly. He's not a geopolitics expert." 

David Frum said he believes Bremmer's version, and "the tell was Musk's use of the phrase 'Khruschev's mistake,' referring to the USSR grouping Crimea with the Ukrainian republic back in the 1950s. You have to be steeped deep into Russian grievance to use such language. It would not come naturally to a non-Russian."

The idea that Bremmer would risk his "high-dollar boutique newsletter operation" by fabricating a conversation with Musk is "very hard to believe," TPM's Josh Marshall suggested. "The idea that Musk would lie when made to look like a toady and fool on a global stage seems highly plausible."

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters he will "let Mr. Musk speak for his conversations," but the U.S. will support Ukraine's government and let it decide if and when it negotiates with Russia.