Is Turkey Running a Secret Nuclear Weapons Program With the Help of Pakistan?

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Turkey, whose intent to develop nuclear weapons has been ambiguous at best, might be harboring plans to get the weapons of mass destruction with Pakistan's covert support, according to a new report.

Turkey does not have an actual timeline, covert or overt, of making the tactical weapons at the time. The country is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1980 as well as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty of 1996. These treaties bar the signatories from pursuing nuclear detonations for any purpose.

Turkey's New Direction

However, in the recent years President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been trying to take the country in an all too different position. Ankara now demands more respect in the region, and is not averse to building more military muscle as well as engaging more aggressively in regional geopolitical matters.

Nuclear missile bunker
Nuclear missile bunker - Representational Image Realty Executives

Turkey's decision to purchase S-400 missile defense system from Russia in 2017 was a landmark development in its effort to spin away from the tactical dependence on the US as part of a NATO member. Erdogan, who came through a botched coup in 2016, made it a point to acquire the sophisticated missile defense shield despite stiff opposition from the US.

By all means, Turkey is on a new path under Erdogan, pursuing a leadership role in the Islamic world and demanding more recognition inside Europe. After the S-400 missile shield, nuclear weapons capability is the logical next step in Turkey's path to the regional dominance it badly wants to achieve.

Rogue Nexus Between Pakistan and Turkey

IANS reports that a rogue nexus between Pakistan and Turkey is in the works currently. The plan afoot is to help Turkey acquire nuclear weapons covertly. Pakistan, with its vast experience in the nuclear weapons black market, is a handy ally for Ankara. The two countries, along with Malaysia, are challenging the supremacy of Saudi Arabia in the Islamic world. This makes Pakistan a staunch ally for Turkey in its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The report says that a recent meeting of the Turkey-Pakistan High-Level Military Dialogue Group (HLMDG) signaled moves in this direction.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Reuters

"There are other indications that collaboration on nuclear delivery systems was the hot topic discussed during the meeting. The visitors from Islamabad met top Turkish Army generals and bureaucrats dealing with missile production and aerial military hardware," the report says.

The article also cites other reports that say Turkey might be possessing a considerable number of centrifuges made by Pakistan.

Open Admission of Nuclear Plans

Another conclave of high level military leadership from Turkey and Pakistan was held on December 21, where the discussion centered around the transfer of missile technology and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad of Pakistani Army met Lt. Gen. Wali Turkchi of Turkish Army in Ankara for the Second Round of Turkish-Pakistani Military Talks, the report said.

The next meeting of HLMDG is scheduled in 2021, the report says. Turkey and Pakistan will work on fast-tracking of missile technology transfer in the upcoming meetings. Capacity building of Turkey in producing centrifuges, purchase of small armed Turkish drones by Pakistan and the acquisition of high-range Turkish mini drones by Pakistani Army will also be on the table in these meetings.

In September 2019, Erdogan openly mused about acquiring 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 told a party meeting.

"There is no developed nation in the world that doesn't have them ... We have Israel nearby, as almost neighbors. They scare (other nations) by possessing these. No one can touch them," he said.