Regardless of who did what, and even if the United States wasn't involved in WW IV, it is highly unlikely that the West would have intervened on behalf of Georgia. The logistical difficulties are too great, the risks too high, and the perceived threat to "national interest" is too small to justify intervention. (Historically, this was the same during the Russian Civil War and when the Great Powers attempting to divvy up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire after the Great War. Even the Romans had difficulties in their day).
Agreed. There are always limits to the interests and capabilities of even the greatest powers.
We need to look at containment strategies that eliminate Russian strengths; including discovering means to substitute oil and other hydrocarbons from the energy budget. If the United States does succeed in finding means to create a low cost substitute for imported oil (perhaps some sort of biological system using genetically engineered algae or bacteria), then the price of oil will drop like a stone and Russia (and autocratic Middle Eastern regimes) will have their financial arteries cut.
Given the kleptocratic nature of the current Russian government, aggressive international law enforcement against money laundering and shining the spotlight on financial corruption by Gazprom and other state enterprises will dry up a lot of foreign investment, further hobbling the ability of the Russian State to carry out prolonged aggression. (Monies currently lining the ruling elite's pockets is hardly going to be released to invest in productivity or military upgrades).
This is part of what I had in mind when I mentioned American pushback
But, further, and soon: Russia must be expelled from the G8. It never belonged in the first place. It is, as Thucydides
says, a kleptocracy rather than a functioning, capitalist economy and Russia has demonstrated that it is completely unworthy
of holding a place in the councils of the mighty and responsible. China, and maybe India and Brazil, too, should be invited "in" coincidentally with Russia's expulsion.
The last thing that needs to be kept in mind is Russia is undergoing a demographic meltdown. While it is cold comfort for the here and now, Russia's ethnic Russian population will probably be halved in 35 years due to the catastrophic below replacement birthrates. The lack of manpower will finish Russia as a "Great Power"; there will be no one to man the borders and keep the economy running (and of course the critical mass of educated and skilled people to provide leadership and innovation will also be shrinking, probably in greater proportion than the rural population. This is also happening in Europe, Canada and the Democratic "Blue" States). Much of Russia's activities in the "near abroad", the "Stans" and along the Chinese border may reflect the fears of ethnic Russians of being submerged in a sea of peoples of other religions and ethnicity's.
I have heard, but I cannot verify
that Russians are abandoning (Chinese) border areas in Eastern Siberia. Some (a few? several?) Russian market towns in the border region have been described as largely Chinese: no efective Russian border guards/customs; Chinese money in the shops; even Chinese fire departments providing emergency services. Many Chinese believe that Siberia, the part East of the Yenisey River
anyway, is naturally
Chinese and will provide much needed resources and some lebensraum
China regards any Russian aggression, except, perhaps towards NATO, as a threat to China. This would especially be the case as regards the Stans
. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization
(Shanghai Six) allows China to regard Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as being within its sphere of influence
Regarding demographics: there is an old saying that the candle flares brightest just before it dies; perhaps that's what we're seeing now - the beginning of the end of Russia as a cohesive, thuggish, giant, Eurasian state.