This is a first: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday suggested Turkey should seek nuclear weapons in comments sure to gain Washington’s attention at a moment NATO’s most controversial member is busy deploying Russia’s S-400 anti-air defense system.
During a televised speech in which he ranted against rivals and moderates within his own Justice and Development Party (AKP) Erdogan said, “They say we can’t have nuclear tipped missiles though some have them. This, I can’t accept,” according to Turkey’s Ahval news.
“I don’t accept this,” he said. “The US and Russia have them. Every developing nation has them.”
He pointed out that Turkey had in the past been unfairly denied weapons deals by allied nations, which led to Turkish ingenuity in producing its own weaponry.
Erdogan also reportedly invoked Israel’s ‘unofficial’ or undeclared nuclear stockpile during his speech, saying that because Israel has nuclear weapons, “no one can touch them”.
Turkey is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1980, and further signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear tests for any purpose.
His comments were part of a broader theme attacking “rebels” within AKP who are seeking to possibly establish new political parties as “weakening” and splintering the nation.
In reference to Turkey’s deeply controversial reception of the first round of S-400 components, and with the second procurement currently in process of delivery, Erdogan said, “This of course adds a completely different power to our defense system. Whatever we have done in the past 18 years has been for the people of Turkey.”
Ironically Erdogan had previously been on record as blasting nuclear armed countries as unjustly “threatening the world” with their powerful weapons. The past comments were made as he reacted to the May 2018 White House withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
“Those who have more than 15,000 nuclear warheads are currently threatening the world,” he said at the time. The vast majority of the world’s nukes belong to Russia and the United States.
Though not verified, over the past years there have been occasional reports from Turkish journalists alleging Erdogan has sought to expand Turkey’s arsenal to include atomic bombs.