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From Newsweek

Biden to Bosnia: Shape Up or Else

In a speech so pointed that he paused to apologize several times out of concern he was being rude, Vice President Joe Biden warned Bosnia on Tuesday that it needs to rise above the chronic ethnic tensions that have long threatened its stability or face being a failed state. “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 and your children’s future,” Biden told members of the Bosnian Parliament in Sarajevo on Tuesday.

His speech came nearly 14 years after U.S. diplomacy helped to end the war in Bosnia, which killed at least 100,000 people. Yet the country’s progress has remained stagnant and largely divided under the same ethnic lines that caused the initial war in the first place. In particular, Biden called out a “sharp and dangerous rise in nationalist rhetoric.” “God, when will you tire of that rhetoric, stirring up anger and resentment,” Biden said. “With all due respect, and forgive me for saying this in your parliament, but this must stop.” Failure to do so, he warned, would lead to “ethnic chaos” and continue Bosnia on the path of being one of the “poorest countries in Europe.” “And you will be judged,” Biden said. “You will be judged harshly by history and by your children.”

Biden strayed from his prepared remarks several times during the speech, most notably to deliver repeated apologies for speaking so harshly about the country in front of its legislature. “Americans feel we have a stake in your success,” the VP said, reminding the group that the U.S. has sent thousands of its “sons and daughters” into the region to uphold Bosnia’s freedom. “We feel that we have earned the right to speak honestly, even bluntly, in a country that has captured our hearts.” Parliament members, who listened to Biden’s words through interpreting devices, were virtually dead silent during the Veep’s remarks. No one clapped, no one moved—until the end, when the lawmakers stood to give Biden a standing ovation. “The choice is yours,” Biden said. “If you make the right choice, we will stand with you.”

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