On the surface, change appears to be in the air.
The vibe at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum was distinctively different this year, with European President Jean-Claude Juncker, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in attendance.
The noises out of European capitals have also taken on a different tone, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz calling for a rapprochement with Moscow.
With his economy reeling and his pivot to China flailing, Vladimir Putin is clearly seeking to court the Europeans.
And spooked by Brexit and the migrant crisis, Europeans are increasingly concluding that a conflict on their eastern flank is the last thing they need.
Many are chomping at the bit to get back to business as usual with Russia.
But here's the thing.
Even if Brussels ended sanctions and decided to make nice with Moscow tomorrow, the Putin regime would continue trying to undermine Europe.
For the Kremlin, that is business as usual.
Because the Putin regime's problem isn't with what Europe is doing -- but with what Europe is.
Europe presents a model of governance close to Russia's borders that directly challenges the authoritarian kleptocracy in the Kremlin.
The EU provides a model of integration based on consensus rather than coercion.
And the EU has a magnetic pull on Russia's neighbors, undermining Putin's dream of a sphere of influence in the former Soviet space.
And as long as that remains the case, as long as Europe remains Europe, Putin's war on Europe will continue.
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