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Biden to Bosnia: Join Europe or die!

Reading about Joe Biden’s address to the Bosnian parliament yesterday, his remarks seems unusually blunt, bordering on disrespectful: “Today, to be very blunt with you, I personally, and the leadership of my country is worried … about the direction of your country and your future.” … “The only real future is to join Europe,” Biden ...

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Vice President of The United States, Joseph Biden gestures as he speaks at The Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, on 19 May, 2009. US Vice President Joe Biden warned Bosnian politicians they faced a stark choice between EU and NATO integration or a return to bloody conflict unless they dropped nationalist rhetoric. AFP PHOTO/Elvis BARUKCIC (Photo credit should read ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Reading about Joe Biden’s address to the Bosnian parliament yesterday, his remarks seems unusually blunt, bordering on disrespectful:

“Today, to be very blunt with you, I personally, and the leadership of my country is worried … about the direction of your country and your future.” …

“The only real future is to join Europe,” Biden said. “Right now you are off that path. You can follow this path to Europe or you can take an alternative path. You have done it before,” Biden said, referring to the 1992-95 war.

Reading about Joe Biden’s address to the Bosnian parliament yesterday, his remarks seems unusually blunt, bordering on disrespectful:

“Today, to be very blunt with you, I personally, and the leadership of my country is worried … about the direction of your country and your future.” …

“The only real future is to join Europe,” Biden said. “Right now you are off that path. You can follow this path to Europe or you can take an alternative path. You have done it before,” Biden said, referring to the 1992-95 war.

“Failure to do so will ensure you remain among the poorest countries in Europe. At worst, you’ll descend into ethnic chaos that defined your country for the better part of a decade.”

The parliamentarians apparently cheered at the end of the speech, but given that Biden is already not exactly loved by ethnic Serbs who resent the strong anti-Serbian stance he took during the 1990s, I’m not sure that this kind of lecture is exactly productive.

What the vice president said is probably correct (and as Edward Joseph points out, he’s probably the only one in a position to say it) but this is precisely the sort of thing you normally say in a closed-door meeting with a country’s leaders, not in a public address before its parliament. 

Biden’s boss said last month that the United States has, in the past, “shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward Europe and vowed to change the tone. But Biden essentially telling Bosnia to follow his recommendations or continue to be known as a violent, poverty-stricken hellhole is American arrogance of near-Rumsfeldian levels and seems very much at odds with the administration’s stated approach to foreign policy. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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