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Mutual Misunderstanding: Conceptual Misperceptions in Russia-EU Relations

Evgeniya Bakalova

The purpose of the paper is to study the paradigmatic shifts within the normative - power politics dichotomy in the Russian foreign policy discourse and to examine how these shift affected the perception of the European Union as a political actor and the prospects for Russia-EU relations. The paper proposes a specific methodological framework for content-analyzing Russian strategic foreign policy documents thus examines the foreign policy orientation manifested in the Annual Presidential Addresses, the Foreign Policy Concepts and the National Security Strategies of Russian Federation across the whole transition period. Adopting a constructivist framework, the study focuses on how the national identity crisis in Russia combined with the external (especially European) responses to Russia's development have contributed to the instable, incoherent and sometimes contradicting foreign policy positioning in the quest for constructing a national and international self which could be both 'a part of Europe and apart from Europe'. The paper argues that the perceived marginalization of Russia on the European political space has created a situation when the EU has been used as a negative significant other in the process of constructing a distinct identity, which is based on the denial of Russia's 'Europeanness' and the adoption of an alternative understanding of the basic European values and norms. By studying the structure and the core concepts within the Russian 'normative' rhetoric, the paper explains how conceptual misperceptions and reciprocal misunderstandings have prevented a constructive political dialogue between Russia and the EU.



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