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Are S-400s part of Erdoğan’s nuclear ambitions?

(FILES) Pakistan's made surface-to-air missile "Hattaf" passes 21 March 1997 in Islamabad by a huge portrait of the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah during a full dress military parade. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP FILES / AFP)

Cevheri Güven

Several reports in the international media claimed that Turkey was in high-level talks with Pakistan for possible acquisition of nuclear weapons and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistence on possessing the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system is part of his long-term goal of safeguarding the nuclear capability he aims to build.

The first such claim was raised by the Zeenews India TV broadcaster, which highlighted the 15th round of the Pakistan-Turkey High-Level Military Dialogue Group that was held in Ankara Dec. 22-23.

The meeting saw the participation of the highest ranking military officers thus far, and to achieve his geopolitical objectives Erdoğan is counting on Pakistan’s nuclear technologies, according to the report.

Zeenews India claimed that the meeting included negotiations over a possible transfer of nuclear weapon and missile warhead technology and that Erdoğan personally talked to Qamar Javed Bajva, the Pakistani chief of the army staff, to that end.

Israeli intelligence officer: Turkey’s S-400 are for protecting nuclear weapons

After the Indian TV station, a similar report appeared in the Greek media. According to the Pentapostagma news website, Yakov Kedmi, former director of the Israeli secret service Nativ, made similar allegations during a program on the Russian ITON TV.

According to Kedmi, the Turkish government’s insistence on having the S-400s is linked to his nuclear ambitions, which will end up prompting Israel to use its F-35 stealth jets against Turkey. Erdoğan believes that only S-400s can protect nuclear weapons and facilities.

Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made system caused a rift with its NATO allies and led to US sanctions as well as its removal from the joint manufacturing program for the F-35s.

Not enough proof of Turkey’s nuclear plans

Security expert Fatih Yurtsever says there is not enough evidence for Erdoğan’s alleged nuclear ambitions. However, he finds the reports in the international media worrying.

“The developing ties between the Turkish and Pakistani governments have brought Greece and India closer together. There are not enough data to suggest that the reports are true or that Turkey has plans to acquire nuclear capabilities. Yet, Erdoğan’s individual interest-driven foreign policy is compelling several actors to cooperate against Turkey,” Yurtsever says.

“The reports might be aimed at further marginalizing the Erdoğan regime and straining Turkey’s ties with the US. However, given the circumstances, such a mad move by Erdoğan will only accelerate his fall. He is pragmatic enough to avoid doing anything that pops into his mind. Besides, a nuclear Turkey is the last thing the Russians want to see in the region. The only winners of these debates are China, Iran and the UK, who are able to take advantage of Turkey’s growing isolation to align it with their own interests.”

Erdoğan’s wish for nuclear weapons

In September 2019 Erdoğan said: “Some have nuclear warheads in their hands. But I should not have one! I do not accept this,” which at the time drew reactions from the international community.

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