The Russian invasion of Georgia has been used as an opportunity by both Obama and McCain supporters to toss out largely irrelevant boasts about the respective candidate's effect on the situation along with unsupportable claims of readiness to take Hillary's 3:00 AM phone call. Seeing this military incursion through the US presidential primary prism is fundamentally wrong. Thanks to the Cheney administration's fundamentally cowardly approach to foreign policy, the US has little influence over Russia. This is about Putin staking out the boundaries of Russian influence, and the audience he is addressing is the EU.
The occupation of Gori - and the proximity of Russian forces to a major gas pipeline - was a warning shot to the EU to back off. While Europe and the US have been playing at regime change in Iraq where it has done no good for the West and has greatly strengthened hardliners in Iran, Russia has been gearing up for the real thing in its break away republics. The Crimea is a dangerous place to be.
A unified, well-armed Russia rolling in petro-dollars (petro-rubles?) regrouping into something very like the USSR at the height of its power is not something we expected to see after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 80s. Putin is a truly formidable character and an astute political actor, easily taking advantage of the self-inflicted weakness of the US after Bush's push to war with Saddam. Whomever is President in Russia, Putin is calling the shots.
Yet another unintended consequence of the neocons' bid for world domination.