Published Oct. 21 in the Italian newspaper, Il Manifesto. Translation by John Catalinotto.
“Some countries have nuclear missiles, but the West insists that we cannot have them. This is unacceptable.” This statement by President Erdogan reveals that the current crisis goes beyond that which began with the Turkish offensive in Syria.
In Turkey, during the Cold War, the United States deployed nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union. In 1962, in agreements with the USSR to resolve the Cuban missile crisis, U.S. President John Kennedy promised to remove these weapons from Turkey, but this was not done.
After the end of the Cold War, about 50 U.S. B61 nuclear bombs — the same kind as those deployed in northern Italy at Aviano and Ghedi — directed mainly against Russia, remained in Turkey, at the Incirlik air base. With that deployment, both the United States and Turkey violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Turkish pilots, within the framework of NATO, are trained — like the Italian pilots stationed at the Ghedi base — to attack with B61 nuclear bombs under U.S. command. The Pentagon plans to soon replace the B61s also in Turkey — as in Italy and other European countries — with the new B61-12 nuclear bombs, also directed mainly against Russia.
In the meantime, however, following the Turkish purchase of Russian anti-aircraft missiles S-400, the United States removed Turkey from the list of places where it will deploy F-35s, which are the main carriers of B61-12 bombs. Turkey was supposed to have purchased 100 F-35 aircraft, of which it was a co-producer. “The F-35,” declared a White House spokesperson, “cannot coexist with the anti-aircraft system S-400, which can be used to learn the capabilities of the fighter.” (whitehouse.gov, July 17)
That is, Russia could use what it learns through the S-400 anti-aircraft system to strengthen its defenses against the F-35. By supplying Ankara with S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, Moscow has at least for the meantime managed to prevent the U.S. from deploying 100 F-35s on Turkish territory, where they would be ready to attack [Russia] with new U.S. B61-12 nuclear bombs.
At this point, it seems probable that, among the options considered in Washington, there is that of transferring U.S. nuclear weapons now in Turkey to another country deemed more reliable. According to the authoritative Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (USA, Oct. 17), “the Aviano air base may be the best European option from a political point of view, but it probably does not have enough space to receive all of Incirlik’s nuclear weapons.” Space could, however, be provided, given that renovation work has already begun in Aviano to accommodate B61-12 nuclear bombs.
Against this background there is Erdogan’s declaration that, using the threatening presence of the Israeli nuclear arsenal as his excuse, Turkey intends to have its own nuclear weapons.
It’s no easy project, but doable. Turkey has advanced military technologies, supplied in particular by Italian companies, especially Leonardo [aircraft, helicopter, military industry]. It has uranium deposits. It has experience in the field of research reactors, supplied in particular by the United States.
Turkey has started the construction of its own nuclear electronics industry, purchasing some reactors from Russia, Japan, France and China. According to some sources, Turkey could have already procured, on the “illegal nuclear market,” centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Erdogan’s announcement that Turkey wants to become a nuclear power, interpreted by some as a bluff to give his regime more weight in NATO, should not be underestimated.
Erdogan’s announcement uncovers what is generally hidden in the media debate: that is, that in the turbulent situation caused by aggressive war policies, the possession of nuclear weapons plays an increasingly important role. It prompts those who do not already possess nuclear weapons to obtain them.