Thus, Putin's tactic of using personal relationships to help strengthen Russia's position in Europe seems to be outdated. The French and Italian governments are still young, so Putin could try to build relationships with Hollande and Monti. But, like Germany, France and Italy are more interested in what is happening in Europe than in Russia.
This new attitude toward Russia already has surfaced in Rome. In the first talks between the new Italian government and the Russian government, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano made it clear that the Moscow-Rome relationship would undergo a "depersonalization." The first evidence of this was Italy's embrace of U.S. ballistic missile defense plans for Europe. Italy -- like France -- long supported Russia's position on missile defense in Europe. Although this did not prevent Washington from moving forward with its plans, it did create disagreements within NATO. Italy's shift toward unity with NATO and the United States comes just before what was to be a NATO-Russia summit in Chicago, but Russia has been disinvited.
The changes in Europe's leadership and focus come amid Russia's adjustments to other new dynamics in Europe. Before the Continent's financial and political crises, Russia had forged a new strategy for foreign policy regarding Europe in which strategic European partners -- especially Germany, France and Italy -- would invest heavily in Russia's economy and financial sector. With Europe nearly broke, however, this strategy has been cut back and could be abandoned altogether. Russia is proceeding with European partners on some projects, but Moscow must financially step up more than it anticipated for these projects to succeed. It is an expensive foreign policy choice.
Russia's main goal regarding Europe is to keep European powers divided while extracting what Moscow wants financially and technologically. The days have passed when Putin could call a friend in Europe to help with NATO or with technological deficiencies. Russia has to design a new strategy to deal with a very different Europe and adhere to its deeper imperatives rather than rely on personal and political relationships, which are fleeting compared to the forces of geopolitics.