Obama at NATO summit: Brexit will not harm relations between U.S., EU

WARSAW, Poland, July 8 (UPI) — The British departure from the European Union will not harm solidarity between the United States and Europe, President Barack Obama said Friday at a NATO summit.

Speaking in Warsaw after a meeting with EU leaders, Obama said Western unity is not weakened by Britain’s decision to leave the economic bloc and called the EU “one of the greatest economic and political achievements of modern times” and the integrated economy as a “cornerstone of U.S. relations with the world.”

The long-planned NATO summit is focused on reinforcing solidarity within its membership, particularly with assurances to newer members on the border with Russia who fear encroachment similar to Russian actions in Ukraine and Crimea. NATO leaders will authorize multinational combat forces to be installed in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, four 1,000-person battalions led by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany.

While NATO insists the troop buildup is to counter missile threats to Eastern Europe from Iran and Syria, it is clear the smaller, eastern NATO members regard it as a pledge of defense against Russia.

“NATO does not seek confrontation. We don’t want a new Cold War. The Cold War is history and it should remain history,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday, promising more dialogue with Russia.

The goals of the summit, which runs through Saturday, are being overshadowed by speculation about the United Kingdom’s role in Europe, with an EU exit planned. In a Financial Times essay, Obama said, “I have no doubt that the U.K. will remain one of NATO most capable members.”

“The special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. will endure,” Obama wrote.

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