Fact Sheet

Turkey Overview

Turkey Overview

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This page is part of the Turkey Country Profile.

Turkey is not known to possess nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs, and is a member in good standing of all of the major treaties governing their acquisition and use. 1

While Turkey is situated in a notoriously “dangerous neighborhood” and is often mentioned as a possible proliferation domino should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, it has relied on the nuclear and conventional deterrence provided by U.S./NATO security guarantees for more than half a century. 2 However, as negotiations regarding Turkey’s accession to the EU have stalled since a failed coup attempt in 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made several public mentions of Turkey’s right to develop and acquire nuclear weapons. 3 Thanks in part to decades of U.S. military aid and cooperation, Turkey has robust conventional defense capabilities, including short-range ballistic missiles. In 2017, Ankara purchased a Russian S-400 missile defense system and was subsequently banned from participating in the U.S. F-35 pilot training program. 4


As part of NATO’s nuclear umbrella, Turkey continues to host approximately 50 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons on its territory at Incirlik Air Base. 5 While the Cold War-era B61 bombs serve little military purpose, they provide tangible evidence of a continued American commitment to Turkish security. There is ongoing debate in the policy community about whether the United States should continue to station tactical nuclear weapons in Turkey, given political instability in Turkey and the wider Middle East. 6 However, advocates for the continued presence of the weapons argue that, although they serve little military purpose, they provide tangible evidence of a continued American commitment to Turkish security.

The United States plans to upgrade the B61 bombs to the B61-12 and hopes to complete the process by 2024. 7 Currently, both U.S. aircraft and some Turkish F16s can carry the B61, however, there is some speculation over whether Turkey still maintains an operational link with the B61s on its territory. 8 Additionally, the United States halted a shipment of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey in 2019 over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system. Some of these jets were slated to be used with U.S. nuclear weapons. 9

Additionally, in September 2019, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that it was unacceptable for nuclear-armed states to prohibit Turkey from attaining nuclear weapons. Though he did not say if Turkey would begin to pursue a nuclear weapons program, Erdogan’s statement fueled calls for the U.S. to remove its nuclear weapons from Turkey and increased anxieties regarding the development of nuclear power plants in Turkey. 10

Turkey’s interest in civilian nuclear technology dates to at least 1956, when the government founded the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK), Ankara conducts sophisticated nuclear fuel cycle research and possesses two small research reactors. The TR-2 5MWt reactor is located at the Cekmece Nuclear Research Training Center, and the ITU TRIGA MARK II is located at Istanbul Technical University. 11

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP-led government is aggressively pursuing nuclear energy. While the government’s announcement in 2006 that it would install 5,000MW nuclear energy by 2015 (3 reactors) has not proven feasible, the AKP remains politically committed to the nuclear power program. 12 After a troubled tender process in 2008, the government began assessing the sole bid for construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant at Akkuyu from the Russian-led consortium Atomstroyexport-Inter Rao-Park Teknik. 13 In May 2010, Russia and Turkey signed a Cooperation Agreement, under which Rosatom State Cooperation will construct Akkuyu nuclear power plant. The plant will eventually contain four reactors with a combined capacity of 4800 MW. 14 Construction is underway on the first unit. 15 Other nuclear power projects in Sinop and the Thrace region remain in the planning stages.

Turkey meets approximately 72% of its energy demand through imports, and thus is actively pursuing nuclear energy to address this dependency. 16


Turkey does not possess biological weapons, nor is it known to have ever undertaken a biological weapons program. 17 Ankara is a party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), having signed and ratified it in 1974, and is a member of the Australia Group to control trade in CBW relevant items.


Turkey is a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC). Currently, Turkey has a limited ballistic missile arsenal.

Ankara’s ballistic missile arsenal consists of U.S.-supplied MGM-140A Block I Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), possessing a 165km range and a 450g payload capability. 18 The MGM-140A Block I warhead contains 950 M-74 anti-material anti-personnel (APAM) bomblets, and cannot be equipped with strategic warheads. 19 Additionally, Turkey possesses two ballistic missiles, the J-600T Yildirim I and the J-600T Yildirim II, based on the Chinese solid fueled B-611(NATO: CSS-X-11) short range ballistic missile (SRBM). The Yildrum I and II have ranges of 150km and 300km respectively, and carry 480kg high explosive warheads.  20

Given rising regional tensions, and the increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile and long range rocket artillery arsenals of some of its neighbors, Turkey is actively seeking missile defense capabilities.

While the United States had pressured Turkey to refrain from purchasing any system that could harm NATO interoperability, Ankara continued to seek bids for missile defense-related capabilities from Russia and China.

In 2017, Turkey signed a deal to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missile defense batteries from Russia. This contract has raised concern in other NATO member states, who claim that the system cannot be integrated into NATO’s existing missile defense radar and tracking systems. 21 In March 2020, the U.S. offered to sell Turkey a Patriot missile defense system if it promises not to operate the S-400 system. Turkey refused the offer. 22 As a consequence, in December 2020, the United States imposed sanctions against Turkey’s military acquisition agency, removed Turkey from its F-35 pilot training program, and canceled a shipment of F-35 fighter jets. 23

Currently, there are also six NATO-funded PAC-3 missile defense batteries located in Turkey under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).  24


As a member in good standing of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (CWC), Turkey does not currently possess chemical weapons, and is not known to have ever possessed a chemical weapons program. 25 Ankara signed the CWC in 1993, ratifying it in 1997, and is also a member of the Australia Group, an export control mechanism to control trade in CBW relevant items.

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Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
The actions of a state or group of states to dissuade a potential adversary from initiating an attack or conflict through the credible threat of retaliation. To be effective, a deterrence strategy should demonstrate to an adversary that the costs of an attack would outweigh any potential gains. See entries for Extended deterrence and nuclear deterrence.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance that was formed in 1949 to help deter the Soviet Union from attacking Europe. The Alliance is based on the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington on 4 April 1949. The treaty originally created an alliance of 10 European and two North American independent states, but today NATO has 28 members who have committed to maintaining and developing their defense capabilities, to consulting on issues of mutual security concern, and to the principle of collective self-defense. NATO is also engaged in out-of-area security operations, most notably in Afghanistan, where Alliance forces operate alongside other non-NATO countries as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). For additional information, see NATO.
Extended deterrence
Extended deterrence: A country protected from potential adversaries by the nuclear weapons’ backed security guarantee of an ally is said to be under an (extended deterrence) nuclear umbrella. See entry for Deterrence.
Tactical nuclear weapons
Short-range nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs, and short-range missiles, deployed for use in battlefield operations.
Fuel Cycle
Fuel Cycle: A term for the full spectrum of processes associated with utilizing nuclear fission reactions for peaceful or military purposes. The “front-end” of the uranium-plutonium nuclear fuel cycle includes uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, and fuel fabrication. The fuel is used in a nuclear reactor to produce neutrons that can, for example, produce thermal reactions to generate electricity or propulsion, or produce fissile materials for weapons. The “back-end” of the nuclear fuel cycle refers to spent fuel being stored in spent fuel pools, possible reprocessing of the spent fuel, and ultimately long-term storage in a geological or other repository.
Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Australia Group (AG)
Australia Group (AG): Established in 1985 to limit the spread of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) through export controls on chemical precursors, equipment, agents, and organisms. For additional information, see the Australia Group.
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
The MTCR: An informal arrangement established in April 1987 by an association of supplier states concerned about the proliferation of missile equipment and technology relevant to missiles that are capable of carrying a payload over 500 kilograms over a 300-kilometer range. Though originally intended to restrict the proliferation of nuclear-capable missiles, the regime has been expanded to restrict the spread of unmanned aerial vehicles. For additional information, see the MTCR.
The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), formerly known as The International Code of Conduct (ICOC), was adopted in 2002. The HCOC was established to bolster efforts to curb ballistic missile proliferation worldwide and to further delegitimize such proliferation by fostering consensus among states on how they should conduct their trade in missiles and dual-use items.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
Punitive measures, for example economic in nature, implemented in response to a state's violation of its international obligations.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Export control
National laws or international arrangements established to restrict the sale of certain goods to certain countries, or to ensure that safeguards or end-use guarantees are applied to the export and sale of sensitive and dual-use technologies and materials. See entry for Dual-use


  1. “Turkey Hosts Proliferation Security Initiative Exercise,” U.S. State Department, Bureau of International Information Programs, 24 May 2006, www.america.gov.
  2. Jessica C. Varnum, “Turkey in Transition: Toward or Away from Nuclear Weapons?” in Forecasting Nuclear Proliferation in the 21st Century: Volume 2, A Comparative Perspective, eds. William C. Potter and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010), pp. 229-254.
  3. “Turkey Shows Nuclear Weapons Interest | Arms Control Association,” accessed 15 February 2021, www.armscontrol.org.
  4. Staff, “Timeline: Turkey’s Path to Buying Russian Air Defense Systems - and Possible U.S. Sanctions,” Reuters, 22 July 2019, www.reuters.com.
  5. “Urgent: Move US Nuclear Weapons Out of Turkey,” Federation Of American Scientists, Accessed 12 March 2021, https://fas.org.
  6. Jeffrey Lewis, “America’s Nukes Aren’t Safe in Turkey Anymore,” Foreign Policy, 18 July 2016, https://foreignpolicy.com.
  7. National Nuclear Security Administration, “B61-12 Life Extension Program,” U.S. Department of Energy, June 2020, energy.gov.
  8. Mustafa Kibaroglu, “Turkey and Shared Responsibilities,” in Shared Responsibilities for Nuclear Disarmament, ed. Scott D. Sagan (Cambridge: American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2010), p. 27.
  9. Mecklin, John, “Nuclear Notebook: United States Nuclear Weapons, 2021,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (blog), Accessed 8 March 2021, https://thebulletin.org.
  10. Sanger, David E., and William J. Broad, “Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons,” The New York Times, 20 October 2019, sec. World., www.nytimes.com.
  11. “Turkey 2020,” IAEA.org, Accessed 8 March 2021, https://cnpp.iaea.org
  12. Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East: In the Shadow of Iran, ed. Mark Fitzpatrick, (London, UK: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008), p. 65; “New energy minister: No changes to nuclear policy,” Today’s Zaman, 7 May 2009; Jessica C. Varnum, “Closing the Nuclear Trapdoor in the U.S.-Turkey ‘Mode’ Partnership,” Turkey Project Policy Paper, The Brookings Institute, June 2013.
  13. Emrullah Uslu, “Turkish Government May Approve Construction of a Nuclear Power Plant in April,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 6, no. 53, The Jamestown Foundation, 19 March 2009, www.jamestown.org.
  14. “Akkuyu NPP Construction Project AKKUYU NÜKLEER A.S.” Accessed 8 March 2021, www.akkunpp.com.
  15. Clercq, Geert De., “UPDATE 1-Rosatom Wins Licence to Build Second Nuclear Reactor in Turkey,” Reuters, 6 September 2019, www.reuters.com.
  16. “Turkey 2020,” IAEA.org, Accessed 8 March 2021, https://cnpp.iaea.org.
  17. Mustafa Kibaroglu, “Turkey’s Sweet and Sour Policy Against NBC Weapons,” Turkish Policy Quarterly, Summer 2004, www.turkishpolicy.com.
  18. Jason Henson, “MGM-140/MGM-168 ATACMS and MGM-164 ATACMS II,” Harpoon and Quarters, www.harpoondatabases.com; Andreas Parsch, “Lockheed Martin (LTV) MGM-140 ATACMS,” Designation Systems, www.designation-systems.net.
  19. Jason Henson, “MGM-140/MGM-168 ATACMS and MGM-164 ATACMS II,” Harpoon and Quarters, www.harpoondatabases.com; Andreas Parsch, “Lockheed Martin (LTV) MGM-140 ATACMS,” Designation Systems, www.designation-systems.net.
  20. Duncan Lennox, “B-611 (CSS-11) (China), Offensive Weapons,” Jane’s Intelligence, 3 August 2012, www.janes.com.
  21. Toksabay, Tuvan Gumrukcu, Ece., “Turkey, Russia Sign Deal on Supply of S-400 Missiles,” Reuters, 29 December 2017, www.reuters.com.
  22. Coskun, Tuvan Gumrukcu, Orhan, “Turkey Says U.S. Offering Patriot Missiles If S-400 Not Operated,” Reuters, 10 March 2020, www.reuters.com.
  23. Jakes, Lara, “U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Turkey Over 2017 Purchase of Russian Missile Defenses,” The New York Times, 14 December 2020, sec. U.S., www.nytimes.com.
  24. “NATO Foreign Ministers’ statement on Patriot deployment to Turkey,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 4 December 2012, www.nato.int.
  25. Mustafa Kibaroglu, “Turkey’s Sweet and Sour Policy Against NBC Weapons,” Turkish Policy Quarterly, Summer 2004, www.turkishpolicy.com.


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