Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2011

NATO's Retirement? Essays in Honour of Peter Volten

Margriet Drent (ed), Arjan van den Assem (ed), Jaap de Wilde (ed)

January 2011

Centre for European Security Studies


This book reflects on retirements. Real ones and potential ones. Normally, age is the indicator. End of career is often implied. NATO’s retirement can be expected in 2014. According to myth and a bit of historical evidence, in 1889 Bismarck introduced 65 as the proper age for retirement for the very reason that on average most people didn’t reach it. Peter Volten will. Nowadays, social welfare states – and also less social ones – have fear for old people. ‘Ageing’ has been securitized. It forms a threat to the stability of Europe, if not the entire world. The UN’s Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing dates back to 1982. But despite its continued attention and relevance, alarming reports keep appearing. “Why an ageing population is the greatest threat to society”, The Independent wrote in 2002 when the UN Second World Assembly on Ageing took place in Madrid: “Of all the threats to human society, including war, disease and natural disaster, one outranks all others. It is the ageing human population. No invading army, volcanic eruption or yet undreamt of plague can rival ageing in the breadth or depth of its impact on society” (Jeremy Laurance in The Independent, 10 April 2002). Still, up to now, ageing has not been listed in the strategic reports of NATO about the new, non-traditional threats. After the Cold War, NATO appeared quite creative in listing new risks and threats, and it still is. The New Strategic Concept adopted in November 2010 tries to provide an answer to “regional disputes or efforts of political intimidation ... along [NATO’s] borders ... acts of terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear and other advanced weapons technologies, cyber attacks ... the sabotage of energy pipelines, the disruption of critical maritime supple routes”, and, yes, the Official Report of the Group of Experts on a New Strategic Concept for NATO also mentions “demographic changes that could aggravate such global problems as poverty, hunger, illegal immigration, and pandemic disease” – but ageing is not specified in this context (NATO, 2010).The growing sum of pensions, however, puts the working classes under pressure. It burdens the competitive edge of the European economies. Greying is an economic security issue, and Peter Volten is going to contribute to it.