Europe's loss is NATO's gain

The people have spoken, and United Kingdom will leave the European Union. The United States and Europe will be confronted with a raft of bad news that goes along with that decision: economic turmoil, a faltering British economy, a deeply weakened political entity in the European Union itself, the high chance of a Scottish departure from the UK, to name just a few of the challenges. The political and economic institutions of the West all seem worse off than they were just 24 hours ago.

The sole exception might be the military. Brexit, counter-intuitive as it might sound, will likely produce a stronger NATO.

There are several reasons that the British departure from the EU portends a stronger transatlantic military alliance. First is the present state of heightened wariness among all NATO member states – and that includes EU members, as well as the United States, Canada, Norway, and Turkey – about adventurism by Putin’s Russia. The Kremlin’s goal has always been to be the strongest political entity on the continent, and it is likely to look for ways to further exploit the Brexit referendum’s centrifugal effects on the already fractious democracies of western Europe. Since its founding, NATO has provided the most resolute military balance against such efforts, and thus its stock can be expected to rise with publics in Europe.

Second, with the withdrawal from the European Union, the military of the UK will have more resources and manpower to support NATO. Much like Norway – a strong European economy that is not an EU member but a staunch member of NATO – the United Kingdom will have additional ships, troops, and aircraft to deploy on NATO missions because they will not have to support EU military efforts such as the counter-piracy operations off the coast of East Africa or EU missions in the Balkans. They will be able to assign more and higher caliber officers and troops to NATO billets in the Alliance’s command structure – at the moment, many are “dual hatted” into EU and NATO billets or are in EU military structures.

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