New Polish government will talk tougher with U.S., but remain a close ally | VailDaily.com

New Polish government will talk tougher with U.S., but remain a close ally

Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland – Center-right parties victorious in Poland’s weekend election are expected to keep their distance from Russia and retain a pro-U.S. stance but talk tough about what they want from Washington in return.The conservative Law and Justice Party, which initial results showed in the lead Monday, and its expected coalition partner, the free market Civic Platform, support warm ties with the United States.Both parties have also indicated they might extend Poland’s deeply unpopular military mission in Iraq past a Dec. 31 deadline, although they did not campaign on the issue. They stress that in return they would demand more from the United States than the country’s sacrifices – which include the deaths of 17 soldiers – have brought so far.”They will be asking the United States for more commitments,” said Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, a sociologist and director of the Institute of Public Affairs, a prominent think tank. “They would want close relations with the United States, but close relations that would offer us something, for example the modernization of the Polish army or some other issue.”There is a widespread sense that the left-wing government, ousted in Sunday’s vote, has neglected to fight for Polish interests in return for sending ground troops for the 2003 war and later leading an international force that now comprises 4,000 troops.Although Washington made no concrete promises, Poles had hoped rewards might include more investments in the Polish economy, lucrative deals for Polish companies in reconstructing Iraq, or abolishing travel visas required for Poles visiting the United States.U.S. Ambassador Victor Ashe said he hopes to see a continued Polish presence in Iraq.”Clearly, Poland has made a great contribution to the security of the people of Iraq and the cause of democracy,” Ashe told The Associated Press. “We hope that the next Polish government will continue this engagement at an appropriate level, based upon the political and military situation on the ground in Iraq.”Maintaining the strong friendship with Washington has taken on greater urgency as Poland’s relations with Russia have spiraled downward over the past year, increasing Poland’s need for protection by a strong ally, Kolarska-Bobinska argued.The never-easy ties with Russia took a turn for the worse last year when Poland jumped into Ukraine’s election crisis, taking the side of the pro-Western candidate against Moscow’s preference.Over the summer, the tone grew even more strident when the children of Russian diplomats were attacked in a Warsaw park. The incident sparked an angry reaction from the Kremlin and was soon followed by attacks on Polish diplomats and a journalist in Moscow.The likely new prime minister, Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, can be expected to take a tough tone with Moscow. Two days before the election, he referred to the attacks on Poles by comparing today’s Russia to Nazi Germany.Russia’s recent cozy relationship with Germany – embodied in an agreement between the two countries to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Poland – has also been perceived as a threat.”People started to be afraid that there is something going on above our heads. In this situation, America is perceived as the ultimate friend who can help us,” Kolarska-Bobinska said.With 90 percent of votes counted, the Law and Justice Party and the Civic Platform had a commanding combined majority, with 26.8 percent and 24.2 percent respectively. Projections gave the two parties about 285 seats in parliament’s 460-member lower house – offering them a solid base from which to tackle problems that include a jobless rate of 17.8 percent, the highest in the European Union.Vail, Colorado