NATO Chief Flip Flops On Brexit After UK Votes To Leave The EU

REUTERS/Yves Herman

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reassured Europe Friday the Brexit vote would not change the United Kingdom’s role in the alliance, but he certainly did not have that point of view just one day before the crucial vote.

In a Wednesday interview with the Guardian, Stoltenberg said the U.K.’s exit from the European Union could be detrimental to the fight against terrorism, countering Russia and regional security as a whole. While he noted leaving the EU is the British peoples’ decision, he was not coy about the importance he believes the U.K. serves.

“I don’t have a vote. It’s up to the people of Britain to decide,” said Stoltenberg . “What I can do is tell you what matters for NATO, and a strong U.K. in a strong Europe is good for the U.K. and it’s good for NATO, because we are faced with unprecedented security challenges, with terrorism, with instability and an unpredictable security environment, and a fragmented Europe will add to instability and unpredictability.”

Stoltenberg’s interview contrasts when compared to the statement his office released just hours after the results from the U.K. referendum showed Brexit had won the day.

“As it defines the next chapter in its relationship with the E.U., I know that the United Kingdom’s position in NATO will remain unchanged,” read the statement released Friday. “The U.K. will remain a strong and committed NATO Ally, and will continue to play its leading role in our Alliance.”

In his interview, Stoltenberg had referred to the U.K. as the “biggest force provider” in the alliance, and that the U.K. remaining in the EU would be crucial for continued cooperation between the two bodies. Stoltenberg has been a major proponent of cooperation between the EU and NATO, and has said he hopes the upcoming Warsaw summit in July will give the two organizations an opportunity to grow their partnership.

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