Hundreds of thousands of Cuban troops deployed to nearly every corner of the globe – that seemed to be the nightmare of every US administration from the mid–1970s to the end of the 1980s. From its own perspective, President Fidel Castro's government attempted to use its activist foreign policy first to protect itself from hostile US policies, and second to leverage support from the Soviet Union and other communist countries for Cuba's own domestic development.
The first proposition had been articulated by Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the 1960s when he called on revolutionaries to create "two, three Vietnams" in order to confront and weaken the United States and its allies. Even as the Cuban government gradually edged away from ample support for many revolutionary insurgencies, the strategy of global engagement as the best defense against US offense persisted. The second proposition developed in the 1970s. Although Cuba's decisions to deploy troops or to undertake other internationalist missions were characteristically its own, it also furthered a long–term tendency to coordinate such policies with those of the Soviet Union, demonstrating thereby that Cuba was the Soviet Union's most reliable foreign policy ally in the Cold War, and providing a basis for a substantial claim on Soviet resources.