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West-East dilemma closes in on Erdogan

As Erdogan teeters between the West and the Russia-China axis, it will be his goal of securing his political future at home that determines which direction he takes.
Turkish President and leader of Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during AK Party's extended meeting of Provincial heads at AK Party Headquarters in Ankara on September 5, 2019. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

In a span of five days last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered two diametrically opposed messages to Washington, highlighting his vacillations on ties with the United States and, more generally, with the West — a balancing act that he can no longer sustain.

In a Feb. 15 speech following the deaths of 13 Turkish captives at the hands of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a designated terrorist group, Erdogan fired a broadside at Washington for “siding with terrorists,” incensed with a US condemnation of the executions that seemed to take Turkey’s version of the events with a grain of salt. Referring to the PKK and its Syrian affiliates, Erdogan said, “You claim to not side with terrorists, to not side with the PKK, the YPG and the PYD, but you are clearly siding with and standing behind them.” He charged that the United States had “delivered thousands of truckloads of ammunition to terrorists” in northern Iraq.

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