On the 5th of September, during the Central Anatolian Economic Forum President Erdoğan made vital remarks on arming the country with nuclear weapons. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But (they tell us) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,” he said during the forum.
Turkey has been part of a nuclear-sharing program among NATO allies and historically had been hosting U.S. nuclear weapons, but it does not have any nuclear weapons of its own. In the past, Jupiter medium-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads were deployed in various bases throughout Turkey. After their removal as part of the US-Soviet deal to ease tensions in Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. Air Force has deployed B-61 gravity bombs to Incirlik Air Base which are a type of tactical nuclear weapon launched by combat aircraft such as the F-16 and F-35.
Erdogan did not specify whether Turkey would start trying to develop its own. However at the end of his speech, according to D.W. and many national media outlets, he has reportedly said “There’s Israel at our doorsteps, do they have it? Yes. And it uses its nuclear deterrence to scare off everyone. (My fellows) We are working on it at this stage.” Almost minutes after his remarks, many foreign media outlets and international scholars who study Turkey made an extensive coverage of this statement and its possibility on whether Turkey can make it.
Legally at this moment, this cannot happen as Turkey is one of the signatory parties for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which prohibits it from acquiring weaponized-grade plutonium. For such a policy on arming one’s country with the deadliest weapon the humankind has ever seen, it must be foreseen that the country would face a wide variety of sanctions on many domains such as the economy, financial system, trade, and military-industrial sector.
However, when we take a look on the current and long-term threat perception Turkey faces, aside from the fact that whether Turkey is capable of developing the A-bomb with its future nuclear energy infrastructure, it is also questionable that does Turkey actually need it given that Turkey enjoys an immense, deterrent military power in the greater Middle East region and the level of actual conventional threats to its sovereignty are close to zero.