The emergence and re-emergence of non-democratic powers in the international sphere, the growing instability of post-Cold War unipolarity, as well as the particularistic challenge to Western liberal-democratic universalism create increasingly visible tensions in the relations between "Western" and "non-Western" powers. Russia's critical positioning against EU's "Normative power" could be seen as one of the numerous phenomena in a wider context of growing resistance against Western liberal-democratic universalism. But what is the meaning of Russia's "normative offensive": is it a manifestation of the so-called "authoritarian backlash" against European democracy promotion, an identity-construction practice of "othering", an anti-hegemonic discourse "Russian-style", or "soft balancing" within the general logic of "neo-revisionism"? The paper offers a review of the main theoretical approaches to Russia-EU relations and argues that interpretation is largely a matter of analytical perspective. The aim is to propose an analytical framework that could account for instability and change within and between discursive practices and political behaviour, thus blurring the counter-productive conceptual dichotomization of norms and values on the one side, and interests - on the other.
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