Energy and the new world power play

The row between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas is the result of a powerful combination of world energy concerns and Russia's desire to exert its influence in its own back yard. It is ironic that as Russia takes over the 12 months chairmanship of the G8 industrial countries, at the top of whose agenda is security of energy supplies, it chooses to reduce the security of its neighbour's natural gas imports. The Russians say this is all a question of economics and that if Ukraine chooses to turn to Western ways, then it will get them - the market will rule and it will lose the old favouritism still shown to Russian friends like Belarus. The Russians also point out that they have never stopped the supply of gas to Western Europe, which started in the days of the Soviet Union and has continued right through the upheavals that followed.