Worrying, to say the least. Ossetia is one thing; the rights of the matter aren’t all so clear, and Russia has a reasonable case. But the rest of Georgia is something else again. It seems to me that this is not really about 60000 people and an insignificant city; it’s about Russia sending a message, saying “Communism was a mistake, but we are still the Russia that conquered half of Asia. Don’t mess with us.” Which is perfectly reasonable Realpolitik, it’s just that Realpolitik tends to lead to some not-very-nice outcomes when two sides play at it.
It seems to me that the people calling for American intervention are out of their skulls. Intervene with what? A carrier in the Black Sea? Russia is not Kosovo; the carrier-based air force that can deal with its land-based planes is not yet spawned. As for land forces, there aren’t any, short of pulling out of either Iraq or Afghanistan. (Which, indeed, is yet one more reason for the former.) But apart from that, a war with Russia over a minor territorial dispute in their clear sphere of interest – I think the case is a lot easier to make on electrons than for the man who actually orders troops about. Even if he is a neocon.
Which leaves diplomacy, and it’s being tried, and as usual we find that if you don’t have any force behind your demands, they are treated as so many words.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Russia demands effective control over the oil pipeline through Georgia as part of the peace treaty, in exchange for not annexing the place. Which vastly improves their bargaining position towards Europe.
I think, perhaps, that if European politicians have any sense, we’re going to be seeing a beefing up of various militaries’ invasion defense, as opposed to their power projection. Whether we do or not, I think the world just got a bit unsafer. Or, more accurately, it always was unsafe; now we’ve had our noses pushed in it.