This essay by George Friedman in the New York Review of Books explains the geopolitical causes and ramifications of the Russo-Georgian conflict.
For Russia, this was a calculated response undertaken to restore it’s influence among the former Soviet satellites. The message? America (and NATO) can’t and won’t protect you, so watch it.
For the United States, it was an embarrassment:
It is difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against US wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a huge breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the deployments of Russian forces or knew of them but—along with the Georgians—miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The second is that the United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when its military was in shambles and its government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s and 1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that they would not risk the consequences of an invasion.
At any rate, the essay is worth reading.
And here, for your added benefit, is neocon Fred Kagan (of the illustrious neocon Kagan family) testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. His perspective is precisely what you’d expect.