Behind the Georgia-South Ossetia territorial conflict lie possibilities for broader military scenarios. The whole region is geostrategically vital.
East of Georgia, around the Caspian Sea, the south Caucuses region harbours vast oil and gas resources. Many pipelines cross the region. They carry fossil fuel supplies from Asian fields to Europe. Georgia is one of the energy highways. Two routes skirt the capital.
These arteries are vital for western diversification of suppliers. In the eyes of the West, reducing dependence on Russian energy has become increasingly important. Moscow is concerned about maintaining its influence in the region. It is firm about remaining involved in the territorial disputes between Georgia and the seccessionist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
European diplomatic overtures have produced little results, and with the situation so explosive, the EU sending in troops is doubtful. Washington is urging Russia to take a more active role in resolving regional differences.
Countries once in the former Soviet sphere are determined to re-align. With encouragement from Ukraine, Georgia openly bid for NATO membership.
Its army actively courted closer ties with its Atlantic alliance uncle, the US. Russia objects, while bearing in mind the value of remaining on good terms with the US and the EU.