President Donald Trump's nominee to be the next secretary of defense has slammed Turkey's acceptance of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, parts of which were delivered last week, as "wrong."
"Their [Turkey's] decision on the S-400 is the wrong one, and it's disappointing," Secretary of the Army Mark Esper told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing Tuesday on his nomination to lead the Defense Department.
The decision by Ankara puts Russian advanced radar technology into a key NATO alliance member, which Washington and its allies fear could compromise NATO military systems in Turkey. The S-400 could potentially be used to target NATO jets, including NATO's newest stealth fighter jet, the U.S.-made F-35 Lightning II.
Esper told lawmakers he emphasized in a phone call to Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Friday that "you can either have the S-400 or the F-35. You can't have both."
"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," he said.
Hours later, Trump reiterated what his nominee had told Congress, saying the U.S. had told Turkey that it would not sell Ankara the F-35.
"We're working through it. We'll see what happens, but it's not really fair," Trump said.
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