Fred Weir has a solid report in the Christian Science Monitor on the conflict between Russia and Georgia. Russian officials, so far, are saying that they will not escalate the conflict beyond Georgia's breakaway republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia:
"Russia is not at war" with Georgia, defense ministry spokesman Anatoly Nagovitsyn told journalists in Moscow Sunday. "Our main goal is to stabilize the situation in South Ossetia."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Krasin, talking to journalists in Moscow Sunday, did not rule out peace talks but suggested that they would be difficult and could only begin when Georgia meets certain conditions.
If Russia indeed keeps this conflict restricted, as the spokespersons hint, it might win or force a draw in the post-war battle of words that will be waged in the west. There are strong parallels with the recent actions of NATO in Kosovo, which Russia is actively drawing:
There are growing hints, however, that Russia may be planning to use its military victory to permanently dismember Georgia. Russian officials are employing language uncannily similar to that used by NATO when it seized the Albanian-populated province of Kosovo in a 1999 war and then recognized its permanent break from Serbia earlier this year.
"The actions of the Georgian leadership in South Ossetia are a crime against their own people," said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who flew to the Russian republic of North Ossetia on Saturday. "There are elements of some kind of genocide against the Ossetian people. It's hard to imagine, after all that's happened, that they'll be able to convince South Ossetia to be a part of Georgia."
The current situation does not only have analogies with Kosovo, the conflict is at least in part caused by the recognition of Kosovo, which Russia responded to by strengthening ties to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, triggering a more aggresive posture by Georgia. This was in fact something many talked about in advance, as Steve Clemons makes clear on the Washington Note.
However, there are also other aspects to this crisis, one of which is the restoration of Russian self-confidence in its sphere of influence. In that light, an analogy could be drawn with Operation Urgent Fury, the 1983 US-led invasion of Grenada. This is a much larger scale, however, and if Russia actively tries to conquer Georgia and depose its democratically elected government, it would antagonise the west for decades.