Turkey has lived or decades withnuclear arsenals in its neighborhood.Could the emergence o a nuclear Iranbe accommodated comortably inthe Turkish security scene? Or wouldit spell a undamental and negativetransormation o the strategic envi-ronment? The answer to this questionshould inorm the Turkish calculus asthe international community grappleswith the challenge o a near-nuclearIran. The prevailing Turkish tendency to equate Iranian and Israeli nuclearcapabilities obscures the hard security consequences o Iranian prolierationor Turkey and the region. With anIran sanctions vote looming in the UNSecurity Council, Turkey will be acedwith some uncomortable decisions,and the need to take much toughermessages to Tehran.
Turkey’s nuclear perspective
Throughout the Cold War, Turkey conronted the reality o Soviet nucle-ar weapons on its borders and sharedin the doctrinal and operational as-pects o NATO nuclear planning. Yet,in contrast to the situation on NATO’scentral ront, deense on the anks,and especially in NATO’s southernregion, was never as reliant on nuclearorces and strategy. This was a theaterin which Turkey’s large conventionalland orces were a major actor in themilitary balance. The arcane dynam-ics o nuclear deterrence and strategic
upling” within the alliance operatedin a more diuse ashion in NATO’ssouth, and especially in Turkey.Despite the ormal solidarity suggestedby NATO’s Article V guarantee, thedeense o Frankurt and the deenseo Ankara (or Athens, or that matter)were never entirely equivalent con-cerns or many alliance members. Thenotion that American and Europeanallies would accept the risk o nuclearretaliation in deense o Turkish terri-tory was never quite as straightorwardas in the deense o Western Europe. Indoctrinal terms, o course, the com-mitment was equal. In political terms,the guarantee oten appeared less clearcut. The relative remoteness o Turkey rom the core strategic competitionin Europe gave questions o nuclearorces, nuclear strategy, and the publicdebate over nuclear weapons and armscontrol a more esoteric quality whenseen rom Ankara.In the years since the end o theCold War, Turks have remained lessobsessed with questions o nuclear
Can Turkey Live with a Nuclear Iran?
by Dr. Ian O. Lesser
March 2, 2009
Dr. Ian O. Lesser is a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). The views expressedhere are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of GMF.
Summary: Could the emer-gence of a nuclear Iran beaccommodated comfortably in the Turkish security scene? Orwould it spell a fundamentaland negative transformationof the strategic environment?The answer to this questionshould inform the Turkishcalculus as the internationalcommunity grapples with thechallenge of a near-nuclearIran.With an Iran sanctions votelooming in the UN SecurityCouncil, Turkey will be facedwith some uncomfortabledecisions, and the need to take much tougher messages to Tehran.