US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and his British counterpart Michael Fallon have discussed the UK’s recent vote to leave the European Union (EU), downplaying the potential national security impacts of the decision on bilateral ties.
During a phone conversation over the weekend, Carter told Fallon that the two allies “will always enjoy a special relationship reflected in our close defense ties, which remain a bedrock of US security and foreign policy,” according to Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook.
The conversation took place hours after the EU referendum on Thursday, where Britons choose to leave the EU by a 52-48 margin.
Carter reassured Fallon that the military bonds between the two countries will “endure” despite the London’s exit from the bloc.
US military officials are concerned that the so-called Brexit would adversely affect Britain’s strategic military engagement with the US.
London has been Washington’s biggest ally in the fight against the Daesh (ISIL) Takfiri terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. It has also made the largest investment in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
Britain’s NATO membership is another concern for Washington and Carter is expected to discuss it with Fallon when they meet during the annual NATO summit July 8-9 in Warsaw, Poland.
Britain currently has 450 troops in Afghanistan, who carry out missions in the country under NATO command.
British troops also had a key role in NATO’s plans to put together a force of nearly 4,200 troops in Eastern Europe to counter what the US and allies call “Russian aggression.”
“There are issues the European Union and the United Kingdom will have to resolve in terms of [military] commitments that are current right now,” Cook said.
The UK says it is “playing a central role in responding to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe” by training the Ukrainian military forces in their fight against the pro-Russian separatist forces in the country’s eastern parts.
The London government has pledged to contribute over 4,000 Armed Forces personnel this year to help the Ukrainian military.
It has also deployed HMS Iron Duke and several other warships near the Russian territorial waters in the Baltic Sea.