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Turkey, NATO and Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in Europe

Ian Kearns
Occasional Papers, 1 February 2013
Proliferation and Nuclear Policy, Turkey, NATO, Proliferation and Nuclear Policy
Although Turkey hosts NATO tactical nuclear weapons, it must engage in a delicate balancing act due to its unique interests and position

A debate within NATO about the future of US non-strategic nuclear weapons stationed in Europe has been revived over the past few years, after a lengthy period in which the issue lay dormant: Turkey has a unique place in this debate.

Renewed arguments in favour of removing the weapons have gained traction in some NATO capitals, partly in response to President Obama’s Prague speech and calls to reduce the world’s growing nuclear dangers. However, opposition to any change has also been strong.

This paper, the third in a series examining the position of a key group of NATO member states in the debate, focuses on Turkey. Turkey has a particularly interesting vantage point, sitting geographically on Russia’s southern border, neighbouring Iran, and being directly affected by the conflict in Syria and the wider process of change underway in the Middle East. It is also one of the countries hosting the weapons in dispute. Moreover, Turkey’s role and place in the world is undergoing rapid change, impacting markedly on its own perceptions of its national interests, which is in turn changing the context within which the country views the debate on NATO nuclear policy. For all of these reasons, Turkey not only brings a unique range of interests and concerns to the debate, but is also central to it.

About the Author

Dr Ian Kearns is director of the European Leadership Network for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, and a member of the BASIC Trident Commission. Previously, Dr Kearns served as acting director and deputy director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), and deputy chair of the IPPR’s independent All-Party Commission on National Security in the Twenty-First Century, in which he served under commission co-chairs Lord George Robertson and Lord Paddy Ashdown. He also served as a specialist adviser to the Joint House of Commons/House of Lords Committee on National Security.

He has over twenty years of experience working on foreign and security policy issues and has published on a wide range of issues including Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the US, nuclear non-proliferation, the enlargement of the European Union, conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the security situation in Northern Ireland. He is a former director of the Graduate Programme in International Studies at the University of Sheffield and a former director in the Global Government Industry Practice at Electronic Data Systems (EDS).

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