Turkey Denies Reports It's Developing Nukes
Turkey has denied claims from a German expert that the country is secretly developing a nuclear weapons program.
The claim, made by Hans Ruhle in the German newspaper Die Welt, is based on circumstantial evidence. But Ruhle, a former senior German defense ministry and NATO official, writes in the piece that Western intelligence circles are "largely in agreement about it."
Ruhle notes that Turkey, working with French, Japanese, and Russian companies to set up nuclear power plants, didn't specify in the contract the terms for delivery of uranium and removal of waste. "The intention behind it is
easy to see: The Turkish leadership wants to keep these parts of the
nuclear program in their own hands - and they are crucial to any State
that wants to develop nuclear weapons... there's just one reasonable explanation: [Turkey] wants to gather material for a [plutonium] bomb." (translation via Google Translate)
The report caused a stir in the Turkish press and the Turkish government, unsurprisingly, quickly disputed the allegations. "The allegation published in the German press on 21 September 2014 that Turkey works on nuclear weapon production has no basis in reality whatsoever," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "Moreover, it is surprising that such reports have been published by the press of a country which, like Turkey, is a NATO member and part of NATO's collective defense system."
It's unclear why Turkey would want nuclear weapons. As the U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative writes:
While Turkey is situated in a notoriously "dangerous neighborhood" and is often mentioned as a possible proliferation domino should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, it has relied on the nuclear and conventional deterrence provided by U.S./NATO security guarantees for more than half a century. Turkey's dedication to the nonproliferation regime is further solidified by its commitment to the European Union accession process, as prospects for Turkish EU membership would be gravely diminished should Turkey choose to develop nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Thanks in part to decades of U.S. military aid and cooperation, Turkey has robust conventional defense capabilities, including short-range ballistic missiles. Ankara is also working to procure advanced ballistic missile defense capabilities.
It's also worth noting that Turkey already hosts U.S. nuclear weapons, which have been considered part of the country's security umbrella. There has been discussion of whether Ankara might want to remove those, but it seems not to have gone very far.