Named people's commissar for armaments in 1941, Ustinov directed the production of small arms and artillery during World War II and oversaw the relocation of arms factories beyond the Urals during the German invasion. He remained in this post (renamed minister of armaments after the war) until 1953. He received the rank of colonel general of engineering artillery in 1944 and was named a full member of the CPSU Central Committee in 1952. Appointed minister of the defense industry in 1953, he served until 1957, when he joined the Council of Ministers, becoming deputy chairman the next year and first deputy chairman in 1963. During this time, he played a major role in the modernization of Soviet forces. Following Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's ouster in 1964, Ustinov was appointed to the Defense Council and became a candidate member of the Presidium (Politburo). In 1965 he became Central Committee secretary responsible for armaments. Over the next decade, he continued his involvement in the expansion of Soviet defense production.
In April 1976 Ustinov was named defense minister following the death of Andrei Grechko and held that post until his death in 1984. As minister, Ustinov oversaw the continued growth of Soviet ground forces and the integration of air-assault helicopter brigades into the force structure, although economic decline beginning in the late 1970s would lead to a leveling off in defense procurement. He was reluctant to support détente, only grudgingly accepted the Strategic Arms Limitation (SALT) negotiations, and was a strong advocate of intervention in Afghanistan. Abandoning his traditional abstention from political battles, he supported Yuri Andropov over Konstantin Chernenko to succeed Leonid Brezhnev in November 1982 but supported Chernenko following Andropov's death in February 1984. In ill health for many years, Ustinov died in Moscow on 20 December 1984.
Steven W. Guerrier
Gelman, Harry. The Brezhnev Politburo and the Decline of Détente. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984.