US President Donald Trump’s nominee to become the next secretary of defense called Turkey’s decision to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system “disappointing,” in remarks that break days of administration silence about the move by the NATO ally, Reuters reported.
“They have been a long standing and very capable NATO ally, but their decision on the S-400 is the wrong one and it is disappointing,” said Army Secretary Mark Esper, testifying on Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He stated that Turkey cannot have both the F-35 advanced stealth fighter jet and Russia’s S-400 air defense system, which Moscow started delivering last week.
“The policy that I have communicated to my counterpart, if confirmed, [Turkey’s] defense minister, is that you can either have the S-400 or you can have the F-35, you cannot have both,” said Esper.
“Acquisition of the S-400 fundamentally undermines the capabilities of the F-35 and our ability to retain that overmatch in the skies going forward.”
Esper returned to his army role after stepping down as acting defense secretary while the Senate weighs his nomination.