Partners in Survival: Reviving the “McCloy-Zorin Agreement”

Peace Advocate July 2022

United Nations Stamp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

by Dr. Eli Schotz and Krishen Mehta

Today, humanity’s existence is threatened by the danger of nuclear war and the destruction of our natural environment—destruction that is resulting in “climate chaos” and widespread pollution.  If humanity is to avoid the apocalypse of nuclear war and the destruction of civilization, a whole new level of international cooperation is an urgent necessity.   The current existence of large nuclear weapons arsenals on hair-trigger alert is unstable and unsustainable.  As long as there are nuclear weapons states insisting they cannot be secure from conventional military attack without nuclear weapons, there will be no agreements for complete nuclear disarmament. Moreover, there is an urgent current need for a path to general disarmament.

The need for general disarmament and the need for protecting nature are linked in their causes, level of threat, and solutions.  The development of human institutions of international cooperation that could negotiate, supervise, and enforce general disarmament are also the kind of institutions necessary for developing and implementing a worldwide strategic plan to protect our natural world. Creating this system of institutions would represent a quantum leap in how human beings generally think about strength and security.  There would be no hegemon in this system, no single nation or narrow alliance of nations that would make and enforce the rules. In such a system of international cooperation and partnership, there would be a just recognition of the needs of each nation, small as well as large, weak as well as powerful. To achieve these goals, the United States and Russia must come together as partners in survival.

The impending possibility of a new cold war between the United States and Russia, not to mention the war currently going on in Ukraine, makes no sense in the face of the current existential threats to humanity. Unfortunately, within the U.S. government, there seems to be little acknowledgment by political leaders of the risk. We must help those leaders understand the necessity of protecting peace, our natural world, and the most basic human right, the right to life.  In this effort, the peace movement, the environmental movement, and the human rights movement must all recognize their common cause in insist that the United States and Russia recognize a historic responsibility to humanity –i.e., they must become partners in survival.

The idea that the United States and Russia might be partners in survival is not without historical precedent.  Indeed, there was a time when the United States and Russia (the leading nation in the Soviet Union) embarked precisely on this path—specifically,  an agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union informally called the McCloy-Zorin Agreement.  After being signed by an official representative of the United States (John J. McCloy) and an official representative of the Soviet Union (Valerian Zorin) in the fall of 1961, this agreement was presented to the United Nations and unanimously endorsed by the UN General Assembly on December 20, 1961.  The test of this “Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations of the Soviet Union and the United States”  [JSAPD] provided a detailed outline of the principles and processes needed for general and complete disarmament, a complete end to war as an instrument for solving international disputes.

At first glance, the JSAPD may seem utopian and not politically relevant because at its heart is a concept that is very foreign to the way people in the United States have been encouraged to see the world—that is, the concept of a world order without a hegemon.   For the people of the United States to accept such a world order, they must abandon notions of “American exceptionalism”. Reviving the JSAPD is a critical pathway to that goal.

The Project To Revive the JSAPD

Is it possible to develop a project for the revival of the JSAPD?   When it comes to U.S. participation in this process, it is likely that the undertaking would have to begin with non-governmental organizations and with members of the public who would take on the responsibility of awakening U.S. government officials to the necessity of this project. It would also be essential that our Russian partners work out the best means by which the project could go forward on their side, and we would need to coordinate our efforts. It would also be essential to welcome any and all participation and support for this project from individuals, organizations, and public officials in all nations throughout the world.

The recommendation of the Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations of the Soviet Union and the United States, adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly–on June 20, 1961, can be read here.

Please read the statement in full online and consider how you can use your knowledge of the precedent set in the document to educate the public and public officials regarding a path away from the existential threats confronting us all. 

 Its main points, and the ways of achieving those goals discussed in more detail in the full document, are: 

  1. Secure Disarmament and Peaceful Settlement of Disputes . . . War No Longer
  2. Retention of Non-Nuclear Forces for Domestic Order and a U.N. Peace Force
  3. All Military Forces, Bases, Stockpiles, Weapons, and Expenses to be Ended
  4. Implementation by Timed Stages with Compliance and Verification Agreed to at Every Stage
  5. Equitable Balance at Every Stage So No Advantage to Anyone and Security for All
  6. Strict Control to Make Sure of Compliance by All Parties and Creation of an International Disarmament Organization with Inspectors having Unrestricted Access Everywhere Without Veto for Full Verification
  7. Disarmament Process Must be Accompanied by Measures to Maintain Peace and Security and a United Nations Peace Force Strong Enough to Deter or Suppress Any Threat or Use of Arms in Violation of the United Nations Charter
  8. States Should Seek Widest Agreement at Earliest Date While Continuing to Seek More Limited Agreements which Will Facilitate and Form Part of the Overall Program for Secured General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World

 Martin Schotz, is a retired physician, a Board member of Traprock Center for Peace & Justice, and a member of Massachusetts Peace Action. Krishen Mehta is a member of the board of ACURA and a Senior Global Justice Fellow at Yale University.

An expanded version of this article was originally published as an ACURA VIEWPOINT on May 24, 2022. Edited and reprinted by permission of authors.