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London: NATO will experience a more fragmented, uncertain Europe with Britain outside the EU, the alliance’s chief warned on Friday, but London had given assurances that it remains committed to upholding Western stability.
With failing states on Europe’s frontiers and a more aggressive Russia, NATO and the European Union are seeking to work more closely to shore up collective security. Britain, one of Europe’s biggest military powers, was meant to act as bridge between the EU and the US-led alliance.
“It is a more unpredictable situation than before the UK decided to leave. I think that’s quite obvious,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at alliance headquarters in Brussels. “I am concerned about a more fragmented Europe,” he told a small group of reporters.
But Stoltenberg said British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon reassured him by telephone on Friday that Britain would not jeopardise joint EU-NATO efforts to counter potential Russian cyber attacks or naval operations in the Mediterranean, which are helping to stem an influx of migrants into Europe.
Britain will also stick to its promise to help lead the new multinational NATO force in Europe to deter Russia, Stoltenberg said. He added that even though Britons voted on Thursday to leave the EU, NATO and the European Union will still sign a cooperation pact at the alliance’s Warsaw summit in July.
Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian premier whose country has twice voted against EU membership, said he would discuss the issue with EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Tuesday that British Prime Minister David Cameron is to attend.
He said the experience of Norway showed that cooperation between the EU and NATO remains possible. That is despite Turkey, which is a member of NATO but not of the EU, and blocks the sharing of alliance intelligence with the European Union.
“Over the past 13 months, we have been able to reach more arrangements with the European Union than over the past 13 years,” Stoltenberg said. “We have now a momentum in NATO-EU cooperation and I expect that to continue.”
While plans are still being agreed before the Warsaw meeting, the EU-NATO tie-up could mean that taxpayers, currently footing the bill of separate military planning in both EU and NATO, finance less duplication towards common goals.
NATO and the EU say their operations in the Aegean Sea, launched in February, shows what they can do together. NATO ships have worked with EU border protection agency Frontex to stop migrants risking their lives to reach Greek islands in flimsy boats that set off from the Turkish coast.