Newly-elected Polish parties expected to have tough relations with Russia

Center-right parties victorious in Poland's weekend election are expected to keep their distance from Russia and retain a pro-U.S. stance, even though they are talking tough about what they want from Washington in return.

Both the Law and Justice Party, which initial results showed in the lead Monday, and its expected coalition partner, the Civic Platform, share a pro-U.S. stance and have indicated they might extend Poland's deeply unpopular military mission in Iraq past a Dec. 31 deadline.

They stress, however, that in return they would demand more from the United States than the country's sacrifices, which include the death of 17 soldiers, have brought so far, the AP informs.

"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 to the 2003 war and later leading an international force that now comprises some 4,000 troops.

Though 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.

Amid strong public opposition to Poland's presence in Iraq, none of the parties has campaigned on extending the mission.

"Clearly, Poland has made a great contribution to the security of the people of Iraq and the cause of democracy," U.S. Ambassador Victor 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.

We have no doubt that the new government will continue Poland's traditional strong support for the trans-Atlantic relationship.

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.