**Turkey’s Erdogan pivots to Putin as tensions rise with the West
MOSCOW — Regional rivals Turkey and Russia plan to begin mending ties Tuesday after nearly a year of hostile relations. But a meeting of their presidents will probably raise alarms in the West, as an increasingly authoritarian Turkey drifts further from its European and American allies.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, in what is the Turkish leader’s first trip abroad since surviving a failed coup in July.**
But now the two sides — neighbors, trading partners and off-and-on rivals for centuries — are ready for reconciliation, and it was Putin’s swift condemnation of the July 15 coup attempt that helped advance the rapprochement, analysts say.
Erdogan and other Turkish officials have criticized the West for what they say was tepid support for Turkey in the aftermath of the attempted takeover, which saw rogue military officers seize combat aircraft and fire on parliament and protesters, killing more than 250.
Turkey’s government has blamed U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of planning the rebellion, and Turkish media have accused the United States of backing the plot.
**In a climate of heightened anti-Western sentiment, Erdogan’s move to warm relations with Russia may cement Turkey’s alienation from its traditional allies, analysts say.
The meeting between Putin and Erdogan “is a big deal . . . Turkish foreign policy now stands at a crossroads,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“For the first time in recent memory, there is serious discussion of Turkey’s NATO membership,” he said. And some Turkish officials are questioning whether Turkey should move toward Russia, he said.
Erdogan “could easily accomplish this pivot,” Cagaptay said, especially given the reduced state of the Turkish military**. The armed forces have the strongest interest in maintaining NATO ties, he said, but are damaged after undergoing thousands of arrests since the coup attempt.