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ANKARA - When Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last received Joe Biden on official business, in August 2016, Erdogan had just sent tanks into Syria.
Seated by Erdogan's side on a cream-and-gold-leaf chair in Ankara's presidential palace, then-Vice President Biden said, "We're supportive of the operation."
U.S. air support helped that incursion, as Washington put on a show of solidarity after a coup attempt against Erdogan the previous month; Biden visited parliament to see the bomb damage inflicted when rogue troops in tanks and fighter jets had tried to seize power.
Nearly five years on, Biden is president and Erdogan's interventions abroad have multiplied, to the point where Turkey has a stake in many of the struggles that Biden must contend with in the world's most volatile region. Interviews with a dozen insiders and officials from both countries show how the weeks around the coup and Biden's visit set the stage for a new era of Turkish power projection, starting with that incursion into Syria.
Turkey has muscled its way to prominence in the Middle East, North Africa and the Caucasus. At home, Erdogan launched a purge which would eventually remove 20,000 military personnel, and started to concentrate authority around the presidency.
Leaning heavily on a close personal relationship with Biden's predecessor Donald Trump - advisers said Erdogan used to call Trump on the golf course - Erdogan developed a vision of what one Western diplomat called "a club of strong leaders who sort out the world."
That was a vision Erdogan shared with Trump, but not with Biden, who has publicly described Erdogan as an autocrat, and promised U.S. diplomats in February the United States would address a "new moment of advancing authoritarianism" in the world through old-fashioned diplomacy and alliance-building.
It will not be easy. Since 2016, the Turkish leader has waged three more incursions in Syria, one directly targeting Kurdish fighters allied with the United States. He has changed the course of Libya's civil war, bought weapons from Russia, challenged the maritime claims of European neighbours in the east Mediterranean, and backed Azerbaijan's military victory over Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.
At the weekend, Erdogan abruptly pulled Turkey out of a convention protecting women from violence, a move that his U.S. and EU allies said marked another backward step for human rights in Turkey. He also plunged markets into turmoil by sacking a central bank governor admired by Western investors.
Still, Turkey hopes a European Union summit this week can be a step to improving strained ties, the government says. Erdogan has also said he will seek good relations with Biden, but he insists Turkey needs to protect its interests.
"We have no eyes on any country's land, sea or sovereignty," Erdogan told officers at the end of a major Mediterranean naval exercise this month. "We are just trying to protect our homeland and our rights."