Expert, “Noravank” Foundation
A number of processes on domestic (national), regional and global levels rise inclination of Turkey for the creation of the nuclear capabilities of its own.
1. Geopolitical factors
On this level following circumstances should be singled out:
- Though the 5th article of NATO agreement provides protection for Turkey by means of a nuclear umbrella, B. Obama’s well-known “Provision of global peace and security without nuclear weapons” initiative as well as strengthening of isolationist moods in the USA among representatives of both republican and democratic political wings, cause considerable nervousness among the southern NATO member-countries and first of all in Turkey (as well in Italy and partially in Greece). Besides, the situation formed makes some Western European NATO partners (France and Britain) form joint military strategic capabilities. Other countries (Germany, the Netherlands) complying with the logic of intensification of the tendencies (“No American bombs on our soil”, “No nuclear energy”) will free territory for the facilities of their own and will create a fertile soil for the understanding of the urgent necessity of these.
- The role in the creation of the US/NATO missile defence system offered by the US to Turkey (and a number of Eastern European countries) as a “consolation of their concern” cannot be considered and perceived as good guarantee for national sovereignty as the availability of nuclear potential of its own. Even more, deployment of the elements of missile defence by the US in Turkey causes serious concern in Iran and Syria (in mid-term prospects in Saudi Arabia). It is known from the lessons of the Cold War that missile defence contains considerable destabilizing potential. This point is more than reasonable in Turkey’s regard;
- Obstacles on the way of integration with Europe, unsuccessful negotiations, which lasted for years, deepen Turkey’s “disappointment in Europe” and intensify its aspiration to rely only on its own powers, to establish close cooperation with other regions (Asian-Pacific region, Arab world) and powers (Argentina, Brazil, Russia, India, etc.). All this questions efficiency and geopolitical reasonability of Turkey’s staying in NATO military sector.
2. Regional factors
Here the following circumstances should be singled out:
- For decades Israel has been a nuclear power which consecutively denies exerting international control over its nuclear programme. This military and technology capability and this stance have provided the national sovereignty of Israel amid rapid developments in the region for decades. On the other hand Israel’s example confirms the steadiness of other countries to possess nuclear capabilities of their own as the highest guarantee of national sovereignty.
- In recent decade Iran has consecutively developed elements of the nuclear technologies and delivery means. Implementation of a large-scale nuclear programme in Iran, technological progress and other factors make Turkey realize necessity of balancing Iran in the region, providing competitiveness and regional influence as well as seeking for ways of carrying this all out . The logic of symmetric responce moves Turkey toward acceptance of the necessity for obtaining nuclear capabilities of its own.
- Over a recent decade intensification of an armaments race or the so-called “nuclear Renaissance” has been observed in the region of Greater Middle East . Nuclear energy, medical and other applied programmes have been carried out in a number of Arab countries. Some elements of an appropriate infrastructure have been created. The “Arab spring” in 2011 was targeted first of all to the countries of this region which had and/or still have nuclear claims – Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iran. Moreover, in the expert community an opinion was expressed that at the beginning of 2011 M. Kaddafi and H. Mubarak deeply regretted that they had renounced the idea of developing nuclear military programmes, i.e. the only efficient leverage of their national sovereignty "in our time of regulated instability”. This acknowledgment was substantiated by the example of the personal fate of S. Hussein and national fate of Iraq.
3. National factors
Ideological component – “Turkish Gaullism” – In today’s Turkey where the processes of nationalization and Islamization can be observed, acknowledgment of necessity of creation “strategic deterrence forces” of its own, its ideological basis, political grounds and social order are present.
According to some sources, the ruling JDP discusses Turkey’s prospects as a military component of NATO and issue of necessity of creation of the “strategic deterrence forces” of its own . From ideological point of view convergence of traditional pro-western “kemalist” heritage with more pro-Islamist and eastern-oriented powers and ideas is taking plays. This third political, world outlook and geopolitical direction was characteristically called “Turkish Gaullism”, which underlines its inheritance link to one of the mist characteristic elements of Ch. De Gaulle’s policy – strong orientation to nationalism, alienation of NATO military component, development of national nuclear military and economic facilities [4, 5].
Such development of the Turkish ideological and political fields is based upon auspicious public opinion on rising independent role of their country, intensification of its capabilities, taking a bigger regional influence. And they feed each other reciprocally. According to some independent public opinion polls, in 2011 more than 60% of the population in Turkey supported the idea of obtaining more independent and more influential role in the region. Besides, according to large-scale public opinion polls held in the Arab countries of the Big Middle East, Turkey is the country which played most constructive role during the “Arab spring”. Turkey received about 50% of votes of the respondents, thus upstaging France, US and Russia .
Military component – The US/NATO nuclear and thermonuclear weapons have been deployed in Turkey for decades. Currently there are several dozens of B-61 tactical thermonuclear variable yield free-fall bombs1. Turkey has accumulated experience of storage, security and service of the nuclear weapons as well as experience of participation in NATO’s “joint nuclear missions”. The infrastructure of storage and maintanance of thermonuclear weapons is active in one (Incirlik) and in conservation in four other air bases2.
Infrastructural, scientific-technology and professional component – Accumulation of critical mass of facilities and infrastructures, sufficient rate of economic growth, which are enough for developing nuclear capabilities, are observed in today’s Turkey.
1. Thus, in Turkey the experience of small-scale and/or experimental production of all the stages of nuclear fuel cycle has been developed and accumulated for more than 30 years – uranium ore production, processing, (“yellow cake”3), enrichment, production of atomic fuel pellets and rods. There are also infrastructures for small-scale processing and long-term storage of nuclear waste, radiation dosimetry and security services. Ramified and integrated Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK) with its two main national nuclear centers and separate stations – Nuclear Fuel Pilot Factory, Nuclear Waste Processing and Storage Station, two research reactors – is working.
Besides TAEK there is MTA Technologies Lab which is specialized in the issues of production and processing of nuclear fuel. Large-scale research and experimental-design studies in the basic and practice areas of nuclear physics, nuclear synthesis, laser technologies and various practical aspects of accelerator physics are carried out. Personnel are trained.
2. In 1996 under the patronage of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) the Turkish Academic Network and Information Centre (ULAKBIM) was founded. In 2003 TR-Grid Turkish national network was established on ULAKBIM’s initiative. It is oriented on consolidation of all the designed capacities necessary for scientific researches, computer modeling, which demands vast information volume, arrange superfast information sharing. TR-Grid includes 7 Turkish universities where programmes on atomic and nuclear physics and other related areas are centered, ULAKBIM center and TAEK with its structure and nuclear research centers.
3. Judging by the information brought in the open sources, Turkish scientific, technology and innovation areas underwent unprecedented progress in 1998-2009. Thus, over the aforementioned period:
- Gross expenditure on R&D (GRED) has almost tripled. From $2 billion in 1998 they grew up to $9 billion in 2009 (the data is specified in accordance with purchasing power, PPP, $)
- GRED and GDP ratio has doubled – 0.37% in 1998 and 0.85% in 2009. According to some official sources in 2013 the volume of GRED will reach 2% of GDP.
- The number of the personnel and researchers involved in the R&D areas tripled, the rate of the young specialists grew.
- The number of scientific publications quadrupled. Turkey takes 2nd place on the rate growth of the number of scientific publication (the fist is South Korea).
- The number of certified national patents has grown tenfold; the number of international patents also grew
- There is a distinct programme of nuclear energy development, which is now being implemented.
As a result of combination of a number of factors a practical possibility of implementation of the programmes on military and peaceful usage of nuclear technologies has considerably grown. Turkey’s nuclear claims have almost a 50-years long history but current situation should be considered unprecedented due to the simultaneous availability of a number of factors and their synergy and reciprocal intensification.
1The so-called "dial-a-yield" (DAY) system. Besides B-61 mod 3 and mod 4 free-fall bombs, B-61 mod 10 also belongs to the same family of thermonuclear weapons. It was a modification of «Pershing II» ballistic missile warhead (W85), carried out in 1990-91 .
2Erhac, Eskishir, Balikesir, Akinci (Murted):
Sources and Literature
- Ülgen, Sinan, Turkey, Iran, and the Bomb. Euractiv, March 26, 2012.
- Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East: In the Shadow of Iran, ed. Mark Fitzpatrick. London,The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008.
- Turkey exploits «window of opportunity», moving rapidly to acquire nuclear weapons. World News Tribune, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011.
- Taşpinar, Ömer, The Rise of Turkish Gaullism: Getting Turkish-Aamerican Relaitions Right. Insight Turkey, v. 13, No. 1, 2011. Taşpinar, Ömer, The Three Strategic Visions of Turkey. Brookings Institution, Center on the US and Eourope. March 8, 2011.
- Մարջանյան Արա, Ժան Բոդրիյարի «Սիմուլյակրը» և Բարաք Օբամայի «Medz Yeghern»-ը. Մաս Բ. «le May 1968»: «Նորավանք» ԳԿՀ, «21-րդ ԴԱՐ», #3 (43), 2012թ., էջ 5-27:
- Annual Arab Public Opinion Survey. A.Sadat Chair for Peace and Development. University of Maryland, 2011. Kalyoncu, Mehmet, Why, when and how Turkey becomes a nuclear power (Part 1 and 2). http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?load=detay &link=153561
- U.S. Department of Defense. Nuclear Posture Review Report, April 2010.
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