Many obstacles in Turkey’s path to nuclear weapons - Yakış

Several hurdles stand in the way of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan achieving his vision of acquiring nuclear weapons, former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış wrote in an article for the Arab News website. 

Addressing businessmen earlier this month, Erdoğan said it was unacceptable for other countries to have nuclear weapons while Turkey had none, spurring observers to consider the possibility. 

“A Turkish aspiration to acquire nuclear capability is not new,” said Yakış, a former parliamentarian for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

He pointed to former President Kenan Evren talking about working with Pakistan on nuclear technology in the 1980s, and General Hilmi Özkök, former chief of the military general staff, touching on the subject in his 2006 farewell address. 

“However, this subject has never been addressed in such a straightforward manner as Erdoğan did,” said Yakış, also a columnist for Ahval. “We may presume that he did not know all the implications of such a statement.” 

Turkey is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which means it has sworn not to pursue nuclear weapons. Turkey has also committed to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996, the Missile Technology Control Regime that bars the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, and the Hague Code of Conduct against ballistic missile proliferation of 2002, Yakış said. 

“If Turkey is determined to acquire nuclear warheads, it would first have to withdraw from all these international instruments. If it acquires nuclear warheads without withdrawing from them, it will face sanctions,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Turkey’s withdrawal from these international treaties would not entitle it to acquire nuclear warheads; it would still need to find a nuclear state willing to cooperate, according to Yakış. 

Additionally, Turkey has no missile capable of delivering a nuclear payload, so would either have to develop its own or find a country willing to supply one, he added. 

“It is still unclear whether the establishment in Turkey will follow Erdoğan’s abrupt move,” said Yakış. “But, in the long term, Erdoğan’s idea may gain traction with the public.”