NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg on Friday sought to steady nerves after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, saying Great Britain's position in NATO would not be changed.
"The British people have decided to leave the European Union. As it defines the next chapter in its relationship with the EU, I know that the United Kingdom's position in NATO will remain unchanged," Stoltenberg said in a statement.
"The UK will remain a strong and committed NATO Ally, and will continue to play its leading role in our Alliance."
Before Thursday's vote, Stoltenberg had told The Guardian that the UK staying in the EU was "good for NATO" and is key to fighting terrorism and illegal mass migration.
The U.K., a nuclear power that is one of NATO's major powers, is also one of only five of the alliance's 28 members that meets a goal of spending at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.
Stoltenberg said the U.K. is the biggest force provider among European members and that the U.K. acted as a bridge between the EU and NATO.
"A strong UK in a strong Europe is good for the UK 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," he told the paper.
"So it matters what the UK does and for NATO it is an advantage to have UK leadership inside the European Union being a strong advocate for transatlantic cooperation and also for EU-NATO cooperation," he said.
Stoltenberg on Friday said NATO remains "committed" to closer cooperation with the EU and said cooperation would be stepped up at the upcoming Warsaw Summit in July.
"Today, as we face more instability and uncertainty, NATO is more important than ever as a platform for cooperation among European Allies, and between Europe and North America," he said.
"A strong, united and determined NATO remains an essential pillar of stability in a turbulent world, and a key contributor to international peace and security."