Although the period of Soviet boldness ended with the Iran hostage crisis, the US was worried that the USSR had established a broad arc of crisis from Africa to Southeast Asia.
After some hesitation, the Soviets and Cuba had worked hand in hand during a good part of the 1970s.
The Soviets gave strong backing to an independent Cuban initiative to intervene first in Angola, and later in Ethiopia and South Yemen, based on a need for landing and overflight privileges, tracking stations, and the possibility of acquiring base rights for naval vessels in the Atlantic or Indian Oceans.
The two nations also teamed up in Syria and Indochina.
Castro also provided advisory and training missions in Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, and Somalia. He sent large numbers of combat troops to Angola and Ethiopia, and smaller contingencies to Libya and the Congo.
(As an aside, it is important to note that Castro’s military involvements in Africa in the 1970s had no parallel in the Americas.)
Successes in Angola and Ethiopia were particularly important because they proved that Cuba could effectively advance Soviet objectives — as well as its own — in the Third World.
This realization created new possibilities for the Soviets at the same time that the US was noticeably weakened by controversy surrounding Vietnam and Watergate.
By 1980, the Soviets had obtained basing facilities in Cuba, Angola, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia, while also acquiring military basing, port, or refueling facilities in Algeria, Libya, Mozambique, South Yemen, Syria, and Vietnam.
The Havana – Moscow symbiosis was crucial to Soviet achievements, with the Kremlin providing equipment and financing, and the Cubans providing personnel.
Castro did not rely simply on the content of Marxist – Leninist theory as the impetus to defeat imperialism and abolish colonialism. Rather he used the fact that the Cuban forces in Africa were primarily black or mulatto to reinforce solidarity with the Angolan population, and he contrasted the role of these groups in the struggle at the Bay of Pigs to their role in the current conflict. He said:
At Giron [the Bay of Pigs], African blood was shed, that of the selfless descendants of a people who were slaves before they became workers …. And in Africa together with the blood of the heroic fighters of Angola, Cuban blood also flowed. The victory in Angola was the twin sister of the victory at Giron …. Angola represents an African Giron.
Unlike either of the two superpowers, the Cubans also used everyday “hands on” activities as a means of attaining political objectives.
Cuba does not send construction materials; it sends people to build a road. It does not equip a hospital, but it sends health personnel to staff it. It does not provide weaponry, but it supplies military instructors to teach how to use Soviet weapons.
When Castro’s efforts proved successful in Africa, leverage with Moscow increased. The relationship was strong throughout the 1970s.