Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan surprised many in the international community with his declaration that it was unacceptable for nuclear armed powers to prohibit Turkey from acquiring nuclear weapons. While many analysts dismissed Erdogan’s declaration as more rhetorical posturing designed to advance Turkey’s status in the regional security architecture, the president’s remarks reveal the country’s perception of its own deepening strategic vulnerability vis-a-vis its regional rivals.
Lacking the strategic weapons system to deter Iran, Saudi Arabia or Israel, Erdogan’s tough talk signals a shift in its nuclear policy that will likely be revealed in the advancement of its ballistic missile program. Erdogan’s remarks surprised many observers, since Turkey is a signatory to both the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty. In contrast to Erdogan’s depiction, Turkey has voluntarily committed itself not to develop nuclear weapons as a matter of international law. Erdogan’s reformulation of the acquisition of nuclear weapons capability as a sovereign right denied to Turkey signals that Ankara is shifting its long-held policy concerning nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.