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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Ministry of Defense

The Ministry of Defense, an all-union (see Glossary) ministry, was technically subordinate to the Council of Ministers, as well as the Supreme Soviet and the CPSU Central Committee. In 1989 it was, however, larger than most other ministries and had special arrangements for party supervision of, and state participation in, its activities. The Ministry of Defense was made up of the General Staff, the Main Political Directorate for the Soviet Army and Navy, the Warsaw Pact, the five armed services, and the main and central directorates (see fig. 28). The minister of defense has always been either a leading CPSU civilian official or a Ground Forces general; the position has presumably been filled on the recommendation of the Defense Council with the approval of the Politburo, although the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet has made the formal announcement. The three first deputy ministers of defense were the chief of the General Staff, the commander in chief of the Warsaw Pact, and another senior officer with unspecified duties. First deputy ministers of defense have also been selected from the Ground Forces. In 1989 the eleven deputy ministers of defense included the commanders in chief of the five armed services as well as the chiefs of Civil Defense, Rear Services, Construction and Troop Billeting, Armaments, the Main Personnel Directorate, and the Main Inspectorate.

The Ministry of Defense directed the five armed services and all military activities on a daily basis. It was responsible for fielding, arming, and supplying the armed services, and in peacetime all territorial commands of the armed forces reported to it. The Ministry of Defense has been staffed almost entirely by professional military personnel, and it has had a monopoly on military information because the Soviet Union has lacked independent defense research organizations frequently found in other countries. This monopoly has given high-ranking Soviet officers undisputed influence with party and government leaders on issues, ranging from arms control to weapons development to arms sales abroad, that affect the position and prestige of the armed forces.

Data as of May 1989