«Nuclear cloud» over the Mediterranean: The case of Turkey

By Panayiotis Alimisis

After the fall of Communism in 1990 the two superpowers USA and Russia and their allies Britain, France and China lost the monopoly of nuclear weapons. Since then, the spread of nuclear technology speeded up, and as a result, the existing number of warheads around the world today is unknown. Many analysts predict that in the coming decades more countries will try to join the ‘club’ due to the fact that global security is unstable and territorial tensions have increase dramatically. One controversial case which doesn’t reach often the international headlines is Turkey. Rumors say that the country’s President Rejep Tayip Erdogan has the ambition to become nuclear.

It is evident that Erdogan under the influence of his megalomania and neo-ottoman dreams looks forward to become the next ‘Kemal Ataturk’. Also, it’s true, that from the day he came to power in 2003 his country is very optimistic than ever for its «nuclear future».

A few months ago Abdullah Bozkurt a Turkish journalist has revealed what he called ‘secret plans’ for Turkey to acquire the ultimate weapon. According to «EXPRESS» newspaper, Mr Bozkurt stated precisely that Ankara has “secret plan to acquire weapons of mass destruction including an atomic bomb for deterrence” and he added that influential advisors close to Erdogan and a group of officials in the government’s inner circle are said to have discussed acquiring an A-bomb (Atomic).

He also outlined recent meetings with Russian officials, signaling more or less, a move away from NATO alliance. It is not a surprise that the Turkish authorities maintain a suspicious secrecy over these allegations, however, sooner or later they could be force to speak out under the pressure mainly from the EU and the United States.

 

The Russian back up…

It seems that the current alliance between Turkey and Russia, provides a good chance for Erdogan to develop technological «know how» for his country’s economic and military needs. Recently the two nations signed an expensive agreement (2,4 billion dollars) for the anti-aircraft missile system S-400, and probably more ‘state of the art’ weapons are on the way to Turkey. The military cooperation is only at the beginning, after 2 years of turbulent turko-russian relations over Syria. Currently, Erdogan want to focus on the nuclear field, aiming to boost up energy efficiency in order to survive the increasingly competitive environment of the Eastern Mediterranean. Besides, Russia and Turkey already enjoy the profits from the Blue Stream natural gas pipeline which operates since 2005.

Although there is no evidence for a transfer of nuclear military technology, the Turks began with Russian assistance the construction of a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu town north of Cyprus. So far, the International Atomic Energy Committee and the Nuclear Awareness Project which base in Ontario Canada, (NAP had ‘blocked’ Ankara’s nuclear program in 2000) they haven’t express any doubts about Turkey’s ambitions. Perhaps, only if Erdogan decides to militarize his nuclear program and reveal openly his secrets, it might cause some kind of reaction…

 

Towards an Islamic superpower?

Of course many argue that it’s not fair to blame Turkey’s leadership for «sneaking» in the corner to get the A or H-bomb, simply because many governments include the brutal regime of North Korea have already joined the «nuclear club». Comparing the Turkish case with North Korea we can easily spot the differences because Turkey is not a dictatorship (at least officially) and it’s a member of NATO. Therefore the bottom line is this: Erdogan is credible, so he can get the nuclear bomb… But this is not a fair account…

Τhe last years, especially after the failed coup in 2016 against the elected government, a large number of  so-called «Gulenist plotters» have been arrested without a fair trial. There are even serious accusations for murder of innocent civilians by Erdogan’s supporters, and the manipulated Press… suffers in silence. In many respects, the government in Ankara has launched a pogrom against those who fear that Turkey is turning slowly but steady into an Islamic dictatorship with a «western facade». And here is where the big question lies… Is it possible for a country which constantly violates human rights and causing various problems to its neighbors to become a nuclear power? The answer is fairly easy if we look back in history.

We need to keep in mind that the only Islamic nuclear power, Pakistan, an unstable democracy without the necessary freedoms, a backward society, becomes more and more religiously radicalized. The country’s top leading scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, a few years ago gave away nuclear technology of enriching uranium and other technical secrets to North Korea and Libya, because there was never a serious security framework in place by the Islamabad government. If a similar radicalization and security breach takes place inside a nuclear Turkey in the log term -most probably it will happen- nobody can predict the consequences for the surrounding countries, the Middle East and the world.

 

Panayiotis Alimisis is a journalist and a geopolitical analyst. He studied Modern History and International Relations at London Metropolitan University

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