Tesla co-founder Elon Musk on Monday said Russia would use tactical nuclear weapons if it assesses it is at risk of losing Crimea, or if Moscow is facing “utter defeat” in the war in Ukraine.
“If Russia is faced with the choice of losing Crimea or using battlefield nukes, they will choose the latter,” Mr Musk wrote in a reply to a Twitter account asking if there was a possibility of nuclear war or a third World War.
His comments come as Russian forces escalated their bombardment of Kyiv on Monday. Ukraine’s capital was hit by Iran-supplied kamikaze drones for the second time in a week, sending residents rushing for shelters.
Mr Musk also suggested that Moscow would resort to using nuclear weapons if it faces “utter defeat” in Ukraine, which it invaded on February 24. An ongoing counteroffensive has seen Ukrainian forces push Russian troops out of several parts of eastern Ukraine.
“If Russia faces destruction of their army and utter defeat by Nato, they will use nukes,” he wrote.
“Then Nato will respond with nukes and civilisation is over.”
“At least Russia doesn’t get Crimea in that scenario, so you can be comforted by that thought, while watching the mushroom clouds rise,” he said in another tweet.
US President Joe Biden recently said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's nuclear sabre-rattling is bringing the world closer to Armageddon.
Mr Musk has become increasingly vocal about global affairs, especially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His Starlink satellites have been helping Ukrainian forces but he recently found himself in a spat with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after he suggested a road map to end the war.
Critics of Mr Musk claim he is sharing pro-Russian policies and military aims that Mr Putin wants disseminated in the western media, suggesting he may have a direct line to the Russian leader — something that Mr Musk denies.
Moscow invaded Crimea in 2014 and held a referendum on unification with Russia. Western countries do not acknowledge Russia's claims to Crimea, or its annexations of four other regions in eastern Ukraine.
Mr Musk made a comparison for American followers in defence of his stance.
“Crimea *is* seen as a crucial part of Russia by Russia, much as Hawaii is seen as a crucial part of America,” he wrote on Twitter.