Asia Europe Journal

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 297–307 | Cite as

Challenging the EU’s claim to moral authority: Russian talk of ‘double standards’

  • James Headley
Original Paper


Normative Power Europe is not just an academic concept: it is part of the self-understanding of many EU policymakers. They believe that the EU is setting standards of state behaviour in Europe and globally. The EU is regarded as an elaborator and epitomizer of European and ‘civilised’ values, as a model for other regions and states and as inherently an ethical actor. Russian policymakers reject these notions and, in doing so, increasingly accuse the EU of ‘double standards’, arguing that EU external action is inconsistent and does not always match its rhetoric; that the rhetoric therefore masks the pursuit of interests in its foreign policy; that the EU is like any other state (or state-like entity) and has no special claim to act ethically or to be a moral authority; and that internally, the EU does not live up to the values it seeks to impose on others. This article gives examples of Russian talk of EU double standards, analyses the motivations and assesses the likely impact. It argues that for such criticism to have any impact on EU policy, the critic must be seen as a moral equal, which the EU’s sense of moral superiority over Russia rules out.


Foreign Policy Virtue Ethic Double Standard Moral Leader Moral Exemplar 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Barroso JMD (2007) John Peterson interviews the European Commission President 17 July 2007. Accessed 24 April 2014
  2. Barroso JMD (2012) Speech by President Barroso at Princeton University: ‘European Union: an indispensible partner’. Accessed 24 April 2014
  3. Brown C (2010) Practical judgement, International political theory: selected essays. Routledge, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Buckley N (2012) The return of whataboutism. Financial Times. Accessed 28 April 2014
  5. Casier T (2013) The EU–Russia strategic partnership: challenging the normative argument. Eur Asia Stud 65(7):1377–1395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DeBardeleben J (2012) Applying constructivism to understanding EU-Russian relations. Int Polit 49(4):418–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diez T (2005) Constructing the self and changing others: reconsidering ‘normative power Europe’. Millennium J Int Stud 33(3):613–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diez T (2013) Normative power as hegemony. Cooperation Confl 48(2):194–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Euronews (2012) Putin slams EU criticism of Russia’s rights record Accessed 12 March 2013
  10. Farrell H, Finnemore M (2013) The end of hypocrisy: American foreign policy in the age of leaks. Foreign Aff 92(6):22–26Google Scholar
  11. Gaskarth J (2011) Where would we be without rules? A virtue ethics approach to foreign policy analysis. Rev Int Stud 37(1):393–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gaskarth J (2012) The virtues in international society. Eur J Int Relat 18(3):431–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hanson SE (2005) On double standards: toward strategic liberalism in U.S. Russia policy. PONARS Policy Memo No. 368. Accessed 18 February 2014
  14. Harding L (2008a) Kosovo breakaway illegal, says Putin. The Guardian. Accessed 5 February 2014
  15. Harding L (2008b) Georgia: Moscow accuses west of double standards. The Guardian. Accessed 5 February 2014
  16. Headley J (2008) Russia and the Balkans: foreign policy from Yeltsin to Putin. Hurst and Co./Columbia University Press, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Headley J (2012) Is Russia out of step with European norms? Assessing Russia’s relationship to European identity, values and norms though the issue of self-determination. Eur Asia Stud 64(3):427–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Headley J (2014) Russia’s complex engagement with European Union norms: sovereign democracy versus post-Westphalianism? In: Björkdahl A, Chaban N, Leslie J, Masselot A (eds) Importing EU norms? Conceptual framework and empirical findings. SpringerGoogle Scholar
  19. Lavrov S (2014a) V otnoshenii Ukrainy Evrosoiuz primeniaet dvoinye standarty – Lavrov. Accessed 25 February 2014
  20. Lavrov S (2014b) West, Kiev apply double standards to protesters in E. Ukraine – Lavrov. RT. Accessed 26 April 2014
  21. Manners I (2002) Normative Power Europe: a contradiction in terms? J Common Mark Stud 40(2):235–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Manners I (2008) The normative ethics of the European Union. Int Aff 84(1):45–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. March JG, Olsen JP (1998) The institutional dynamics of international political orders. Int Organ 52(4):943–969CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Neumann IB (1995) Russia and the idea of Europe: a study in identity and international relations. Routledge, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Novosti R (2013) Russia ready to ‘eradicate’ double standards at UN rights body. Accessed 12 January 2014
  26. Prichard A (2013) Justice and EU foreign policy. J Contemp Eur Stud 21(3):413–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pushkov A (2014) Russia’s European policy. Valdai discussion club. Accessed 21 February 2014
  28. Risse T (2000) ‘Let’s argue!’ Communicative action in world politics. Int Organ 54(1):1–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. RT (2014) Russia blasts PACE’s ‘double standard’ resolution on Ukraine. Accessed 18 February 2014
  30. Schimmelfennig F (2001) The community trap: liberal norms, rhetorical action, and the eastern enlargement of the European Union. Int Organ 55(1):47–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. The Economist (2008) Whataboutism. Come again, Comrade? Accessed 28 April 2014
  32. van Rompuy H (2014) Remarks by president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy following the extraordinary meeting of EU heads of state or government on Ukraine. EUCO. 55/14. Accessed 7 March 2014
  33. von Eggert K (2012) Due west: ‘Whataboutism’ is back—and thriving. Ria Novosti. Accessed 28 April 2014

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations