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Turkey and the bomb 15 février 2012

Posted by Acturca in Energy / Energie, Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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Carnegie Papers (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) February 2012

Sinan Ülgen

Though most states that want a nuclear weapon can get one through determined effort, the fact remains that most choose not to proliferate. Turkey is no exception. Not even the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is likely to push Ankara to develop its own nuclear weapons. The only circumstance where such a scenario would acquire a degree of likelihood is a breakdown in Turkey’s security relationship with the United States.

As a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Turkey is host to Alliance nuclear weapons. Relying on this nuclear deterrent, Ankara has a very clean nonproliferation record and is actively pursuing a range of conventional forces to protect it from modern threats. It is unlikely that Turkey would voluntarily damage its relations with key allies and seriously complicate its international standing by choosing to proliferate.

But proliferation is not the whole story. Turkey is intent on transitioning to nuclear power and has disclosed an ambitious nuclear program that shapes Ankara’s viewpoint on international nuclear governance. As a strong proponent of states’ rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Turkey argues against some international efforts to constrain the exchange of nuclear-sensitive materials. Ankara even supports Iran’s rights to a civilian nuclear program. It has attempted to broker nuclear-fuel-swap deals with Tehran and favors robust diplomacy and economic cooperation to defuse the tension surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

Thus far, Turkey has invested in a number of technologies needed to form the basis of its own civilian nuclear energy program, but it lacks the relevant infrastructure to enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel. On the outside chance Turkey desired the bomb, those factors make it unlikely that Ankara could quickly develop a nuclear weapon. It has left its nuclear options open, however, refusing to rule out acquiring enrichment technology in the future. All things considered, Turkey is a state more interested in soft than hard power. If faced with a nuclear trigger, Ankara would likely continue to strengthen ties with the traditional guarantors of its security.

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