This is a story about false fear, about Russian propaganda, if you read the Atlantic. Elon Musk infamously tried to boast he was personally going to prevent nuclear war by blocking Ukrainian forces, preventing them from defending civilian areas against Russian attacks.
Musk… called Walter Isaacson, his biographer, and told him there was a “non-trivial possibility” that the sea-drone attack could lead to a nuclear war. According to Isaacson, Musk had recently spoken with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, who had warned him explicitly that any attack on Crimea would lead to nuclear conflict. Musk implied to several other people (though he later denied it) that he had been speaking with President Vladimir Putin around that time as well.
He talked with Russia, they scared him with nonsense, and Musk probably thought he was sounding tough by doing what they said. To the trained ear however Musk sounds like a scared toddler hiding under his blankets, because that’s what comes through in his Moscow-themed depiction of tiny little drone attacks on big mighty ships forcing nuclear war.
Fast forward and the Ukrainian defenses carried on anyway, their drones quietly going around Musk’s chicken-little attempts at blocking them.
Now we see the result clearly, the exact opposite of Musk’s predictions, as documented in the latest news from the Institute for the Study of War:
The Russian military recently transferred several Black Sea Fleet (BSF) vessels from the port in occupied Sevastopol, Crimea to the port in Novorossiysk, Krasnodar Krai, likely in an effort to protect them from continued Ukrainian strikes on Russian assets in occupied Crimea. Satellite imagery published on October 1 and 3 shows that Russian forces transferred at least 10 vessels from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk. The satellite imagery reportedly shows that Russian forces recently moved the Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen frigates, three diesel submarines, five landing ships, and several small missile ships. Satellite imagery taken on October 2 shows four Russian landing ships and one Kilo-class submarine remaining in Sevastopol. Satellite imagery from October 2 shows a Project 22160 patrol ship reportedly for the first time in the port of Feodosia in eastern Crimea, suggesting that Russian forces may be moving BSF elements away from Sevastopol to bases further in the Russian rear. A Russian think tank, the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, claimed on October 3 that the BSF vessels’ movements from occupied Sevastopol to Novorossiysk were routine, however. Russian forces may be temporarily moving some vessels to Novorossiysk following multiple strikes on BSF assets in and near Sevastopol but will likely continue to use Sevastopol’s port, which remains the BSF’s base. Former Norwegian Navy officer and independent OSINT analyst Thord Are Iversen observed on October 4 that Russian vessel deployments have usually intensified following Ukrainian strikes but ultimately returned to normal patterns. ISW will explore the implications of Ukrainian strikes on the BSF in a forthcoming special edition.
Not only were Ukrainian defensive methods effective at countering Russian ships, they have proven to be a strong deterrent. Drone attacks are forcing a massive withdrawal of a completely outclassed and vulnerable Russian Navy.
Musk is wrong, wrong, and wrong. The fact he won the lottery once and has used lies and charm to balloon that one windfall into an expanding giant empire of false promises, somehow didn’t set him up for understanding basic military strategy.