From Russia’s perspective
Grand strategic: increase the capacity for the Russian state to exist on its own terms
Strategic: extend “hard” control to the former Soviet satellites to the extent possible
Operational: Overthrow the Saakashvelli government of Georgia, halt European and Atlantic expansion
Tactical: Use secessionist regions to either cajole former soviet Republics or directly incorporate them into the Russian Federation
From our perspective:
Grand strategic: Shrink the gap
Strategic: Limit the ability of gap states such as Russia from slowing or reversing economic, political, and military integration
Operational: Add Ukraine and Georgia to NATO and the EU, expel Soviet forces from Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, and so on
Tactical: presere the Saakasvhelli government, limit recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia
It is in this perspective that cheap talk of “Old European” solidarity (from Britain, France, and Germany) is heartening. Also encouraging is that even Russia’s client Serbia (for whom this whole mess started) is against Russia’s move.
Putin’s policy of “alienating friends and repelling people” is heartening for the West, because it helps our objective of shrinking the Gap, preventing the Gap from interferring with the Core, adding new states to the Core, and preserving our allies.