Recent Georgian and Russian military action have me thinking about the region. Strategically vital (oil pipeline), a convenient friend for the US (good way to poke Russia, having Georgia threaten to join NATO) and a historically volatile ethnic region (the Caucasus) all added up to create the situation for the current conflict in the region.
Russia will no doubt withdraw, having taught the Georgians a "lesson." I don't think they are foolish enough to want to occupy Georgia (do you remember Afghanistan?).
Was Southern Ossetia really worth going to war over? Remember that World War One started in tiny Serbia, when Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assasinated there. When tensions are high, it just takes one final spark to ignite the fire.
Unfortunately, I think the Caucasus and Russia will continue to have a stormy relationship, as they always have. Not unlike other regions in the world. It's just so sad and such a waste for people who are already in bad conditions to become further victimized by war.
Will the US and other Western powers apply sanctions to Russia? I doubt it. Russia is much more important to the US than Georgia. The US will probably make some kind of symbolic protest and then move on. After all, this war didn't stop President Bush from sitting and smiling with Vladimir Putin at the Olympics.
My thoughts go out to the victims in this war, the innocent civilians caught in the middle.