In principle, Turkey would welcome the global elimination of nuclear weapons. For the
current government, the possession of nuclear weapons by other states is a factor that, indirectly at least, reduces Turkey’s regional (if not global) aspirations and power. However, in the medium term, it remains deeply ambivalent on the future of nuclear weapons and its own plans regarding nuclear energy and weapons development.
Turkey lacks a coherently articulated national policy vis-à-vis nuclear weapons. This is partly due to the fact that as a member of NATO it is a direct beneficiary of the US nuclear umbrella and because the United States maintains a number of nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Force base in southern Turkey. The absence of such a policy is also the result of the unclear demarcation of lines of authority between civilian and military leaders on issues of national defense. While this may not have been a problem in the past, civil-military relations have been strained under the current ruling government, led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Until recently, when it came to setting national priorities, the military establishment’s role could best be described as primus inter pares. The AKP’s preoccupation with expanding Turkey’s role in the region and its push to reform Turkish state structures, including the military’s prerogatives, are radically challenging the military’s control of the national security agenda.
This report is part of larger series produced by the Stimson Center.