Georgia is part of that grand sphere the Kremlin feels it has a right to control. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are the mechanism to exert that control. The two Georgian regions are being maintained in a permanent state of limbo, nominally still a part of Georgia but effectively controlled by a combination of militant separatists and the Russian military. That permanent instability makes it incredibly difficult for Georgia to engage independently with the outside world as Western nations with perilously little spine left are scared off engaging.
There have been steady attacks on Georgia from separatists, from the Washington Post:
“Georgia, meanwhile, said that its troops entered the South Ossetian "capital" in response to escalating attacks, which have been intensifying for a week -- and have been taking place for years, really -- as well as the Russian aerial bombardment of Georgian territory.”
The majority of Russian passport holders that we keep hearing about are no accident, from the Wall Street Journal:
“Russia in recent years has also granted citizenship to the separatists. That looks like premeditation now: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged yesterday to “protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, no matter where they are located.”
It is hard to imagine how Georgia can come out of this current conflict well. The separatists will probably become even more secure in South Ossetia. Our vacillation has created an ugly situation that we will struggle to rescue. Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post concludes:
"In any case, the time to deal with this conflict is not now but was two, or even four, years ago. For a very long time it has been clear that there was a security vacuum in the Caucasus; that this vacuum was dangerous; that war was likely; that Georgia, an eager ally of the United States, would not emerge well from a confrontation; and that a successful invasion of Georgia, a country with U.S. troops on its soil, would reflect badly on the West. Cowardice, weakness, lack of ideas and, above all, the distraction of other events prevented any deeper engagement. And now it may be too late."
However, Georgia's cause is not one we should abandon, from the Washington Post:
“The principles at stake, including sovereignty and territorial integrity, apply well beyond the Caucasus. To abandon Georgia and its fragile democratic Rose Revolution would send a terrible signal to other former Soviet and Warsaw Pact republics that to Moscow's dismay have achieved or are working toward democracy and fully independent foreign policies. The West has made that sort of mistake before and must not do so again."