ATHENS (Dec. 30)
While Greece is worried by reports that Turkey is seeking nuclear weapons and know-how from the Moslem republics of the former Soviet Union, Israeli circles are pondering the possible effects of having a Moslem nuclear power as a nearby neighbor, even a non-hostile one.
According to the Greek daily Kathimerini, the Athens government is deeply disturbed by the news. Diplomatic sources said Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis has asked the Greek secret service for an assessment of the situation.
Animosity between Greece and Turkey goes back a long time and runs deep, despite their common membership in NATO. During the Cold War, Turkey was generally favored in terms of aid because of its contiguous borders with the Soviet Union.
Now, as a Moslem state, it may be in a favorable position to obtain nuclear technology from Kazakhstan, the only one of the former Soviet Moslem republics known to have nuclear weapons inside its borders.
Kazakhstan is a member of the recently formed Commonwealth of Independent States, once part of the Soviet Union. A common policy with respect to the disposal of the republics’ nuclear arsenals has yet to be worked out.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and upheaval in the Balkans, especially Yugoslavia, where many ethnic Turks live, Turkey is trying to increase its influence in those parts of Europe and Asia where the absence of a superpower has left a vacuum.
The Turkish government is also said to be seeking a bigger role in the Middle East peace process.
Israel is aware that Turkey has been cooperating for years with other Moslem countries, including its arch-enemies Libya and Pakistan, to develop nuclear technology.
On the other hand, the Turks are trying to improve their ties with Israel. The Turkish Embassy in Washington has announced that Ankara has upgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel to the ambassadorial level.
Turkey recognized the Jewish state when it was founded in 1948 and has since then always maintained some level of diplomatic relations with Israel.
Turkey, moreover, is a secular state. According to one school of thought, if it gains in power and influence, it will be better able to resist the tide of Islamic fundamentalism sweeping the region.