“Tanks are a deathtrap now,” tweeted Mr Musk before drawing parallels with the First World War. “With neither side having air superiority, you’re left with infantry & artillery – essentially WW1.”
The comments from the tech tycoon came as Ukraine received tank-killing armored vehicles in its latest multibillion-dollar package of military aid from the US.
This included 50 Bradley armored vehicles and 500 anti-tank missiles they can fire. Germany also announced it would supply around 40 Marder armored personnel carriers and France promised wheeled AMX-10 RC tank destroyers.
Western countries have stopped short of providing heavy tanks to Ukraine that could be used for offensive operations, despite Kyiv saying it needs them. In a video message thanking France’s Emmanuel Macron for the AMX-10s, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said: “There is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with Western tanks.”
It isn’t the first time Musk has publicly disagreed with Ukraine’s president, and social media users were quick to push back against the billionaire’s remarks, with some dismissing him as having “zero expertise” on the topic.
Earlier in October, the Tesla boss held a Twitter poll suggesting that Kyiv should permanently cede Crimea to Russia. The poll suggested that new referendums be held under the UN auspices to determine the fate of Russian-controlled territory, and that Ukraine agree to neutrality, drawing widespread backlash from diplomats and politicians alike.
“Elon Musk didn’t know what he was talking about when he told Ukraine to give in because Russian victory is inevitable,” tweeted Nicholas Grossman, an International Relations professor at the University of Illinois.
“He didn’t when he told Ukraine to give in because Russia will use nukes. He doesn’t when he calls tanks useless.”
“Not today, Satan,” tweeted retired commanding general of the US army, Mark Hertling. “My New Year’s resolution is to not engage with those who offer uninformed opinions when they have zero expertise and even less background/experience on the topic.”
“Listening to Elon Musk talk about tank warfare (or anything) is like listening to George Santos talk about honesty (or anything),” tweeted former CIA case officer Patrick Skinner, as he compared the Tesla founder to the Republican congressman who recently admitted to a series of lies about his background, including about his educational qualifications.
“Neither know what they are talking about and both depend on you not caring.”
Not every analyst or expert disagreed with Musk, however. Phillips O’Brien, a strategic studies professor at the University of St Andrews, responded: “He’s right on this, only way tanks can survive is if one side has air superiority or if one side has been so attrited it can but weakly resist.”
Asked if he was arguing the case that “tanks are dead” in modern warfare, he clarified: “They are death traps without air superiority when going forward. They have some usage as a form of mobile artillery or a weapon that can apply a coup de grace when the opposing side has been greatly weakened.”