The most fundamental conflict in the study of politics is that between the 'power' interpretations and 'ideological' interpretations of world events. The former trend of thought asserts that the struggle for supremacy and its maintenance by those who profess it is the guiding theme of world politics. This explanation has received much support from the recent international events which have given serious blows to idealists' hopes of a just international order. Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in a contract dispute on January 1 and raised concerns among the European countries feeling uncertainty amid freezing mid-winter temperatures. The CEO of Gazprom, Russian gas giant, has asked Ukraine to pay $418 per 1000 cubic meters as compared with $179.5 being paid during 2008. Gazprom also demands payment of over $2 billion for gas supplied in November and December as well as fines for late payments. Energy supply is a fundamental thorny issue in Russia-West relations. Europe receives eighty percent of its gas from Russia through pipelines crossing Ukraine. In the beginning of the dispute, Russia assured the European countries of uninterrupted supply of gas and increased supply through alternative route of Belarus. The Czech presidency of the European Union, in turn, refused to mediate in Kremlin-Kiev gas row terming it a bilateral dispute. The visit by a Ukrainian delegation to Prague could not persuade the Czech government to step in and reconcile the tensions. Soon the five European countries - Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Rumania and Croatia - faced a complete shut-off of gas supply through Ukraine which evoked a strong complaint from the European Union. Moscow accused Naftogaz - the Ukrainian gas firm - of siphoning off gas causing a halt in supplies destined for Europe. The Ukrainian government denied charges of stealing blaming Russia of not allowing full supply of transit but the European countries remained trapped in a difficult situation urging the disputants to respect supply and transit pledges respectively. Thus the emergency meeting of the EU convened by Czech president called for an urgent solution to the commercial dispute without jeopardising the transit supply. But the prospects of a quick deal are not much bright. Naftogaz has expressed its stance that it cannot afford above $235 per 1000 cubic meters and has attached the condition of raising transit fees. It has also refused to acknowledge Gazprom's claim of $500 million as late payment levies. On January 7, Russia stopped all gas supply to clients in Europe via Ukraine triggering disruption in flows to Germany, France and Italy. Despite increased supply through alternative routes, the supply to Europe has decreased by half and some countries are badly hit by the recent unexpected closure. The EU member countries have stockpiles of gas reserves stored during summer but they cannot continue in case of loss of supply over an extended period of time. In Bulgaria schools and companies have been closed on account of reduced fuel supply. Many countries have resorted to emergency measures to withstand the crisis individually but their ability to forge a united front and act concertedly is limited. Some countries have earlier concluded bilateral deals with Russia. Moreover the lack of alternatives compels the West to stick to an unreliable source of supply. Russia wants to get Europe's consent in favour of new pipelines under construction by Gazprom. These two pipelines - the Nord Stream and the South Stream - would bypass Ukraine and supply gas to Germany, Austria and Greece via Bulgaria from Baltic Sea. It will offset the risk of unreliability of Ukrainian transit route. Russia is strongly exploiting the US policies to increase the world's dependence on Gazprom-Russia 'zaibatsu'. Russia supports US sanctions against Iran as it opens Turkey's market for Gazprom. The latter has already scotched Europe's hopes of building pipeline from Baku to Caspian Sea by offering higher market energy prices to Azerbaijan. Russia has conveyed message to the West that the days of Yeltsin are over who, prodded by the US and IMF, launched radical reforms to privatise Russia's economy. His strategy threw the country into a whirlpool of hyperinflation and declining rubble. Gazprom's chief has in no uncertain terms informed Ukraine to pay 'European price' ($500) for brokering a new contract. Russia's current crop of rulers has decided to regain their lost glory by flexing energy muscles. The writer is an advocate E-mail: