Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said he wants a nuclear weapon, but getting one could have "huge economic and reputational costs to Turkey," The New York Times reports.
Erdogan has become quite open about his desire for a nuclear weapon in recent weeks, saying during a meeting with members of his ruling AK Party in September that he "cannot accept" that Turkey "can't have" missiles with nuclear warheads, according to Reuters. He also claimed "there is no developed nation in the world that doesn't have them."
The Times notes that Turkey may follow Iran in developing its own technology for building a nuclear weapon.
"The Turks have said for years that they will follow what Iran does," said former deputy secretary of defense John Hamre, now the CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "But this time is different. Erdogan has just facilitated America's retreat from the region."
He added, "Maybe, like the Iranians, he needs to show that he is on the two-yard line, that he could get a weapon at any moment."
However, Jessica C. Vernum, a Turkey expert with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute, told the Times that "Erdogan is playing to an anti-American domestic audience with his nuclear rhetoric, but is highly unlikely to pursue nuclear weapons. There would be huge economic and reputational costs to Turkey, which would hurt the pocketbooks of Erdogan's voters."
Vernum added, "for Erdogan, that strikes me as a bridge too far."
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