- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

President Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon says Turkey’s decision to obtain the Russian S-400 missile defense system was “the wrong one.”

In his nomination hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mark Esper called Ankara’s move “disappointing.”

His comments come just days after Turkey announced it formally received shipments of the Russian-made system that U.S. and fellow NATO allies fear could give Russia a window into alliance strategy and the capability of such weapons as the new American F-35 fighter jet.

“Acquisition of the S-400 fundamentally undermines the capabilities of the F-35,” Mr. Esper said.

Washington has demanded repeatedly that Ankara not follow through with the S-400 deal, reportedly worth upward of $2 billion. Top officials in the White House, Pentagon and State Department have stressed that the U.S. could impose economic sanctions in response to the agreement.



“They are a NATO ally, a longstanding and capable ally,” said Mr. Esper, who most recently served as the Secretary of the Army. “It is very disheartening to see how they have drifted over the past several years.”

Mr. Esper, who could take over at the Pentagon within a few weeks if confirmed, reiterated the comments of several lawmakers that Turkey “can either have the S-400 or you can have the F-35, you cannot have both.”

Officials have said the delivery of the S-400 means that Turkey no longer has access to the F-35 program.

About an hour after the conclusion of Mr. Esper’s hearing, President Trump said the U.S. will not sell Turkey any F-35 Lightning II fighter jets because of their purchase.

“It’s a very tough situation that they’re in. And it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in the United States,” Mr. Trump said at a Cabinet meeting. “With all of that being said, we’re working through it. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not really fair.”

Washington has demanded repeatedly that Ankara not follow through with the S-400 deal, reportedly worth upward of $2 billion. Top officials in the White House, Pentagon and State Department have stressed that the U.S. could impose economic sanctions in response to the agreement.

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