I've been watching the TV and cruising around the web, first at CNN/BBC, then some blogs, trying to figure out what's what with the war between Georgia and Russia going on right now.
Here is what I've pieced together. Russia and Georgia both have a population of folk who were chased around by the Mongoles back in the day, these people eventually settled in regions now known as North and South Ossetia. The North Ossetians are within Russian territory and have been given limited autonomy, the South Ossetians declared independence from Georgia in the 90's after Georgia gained its independence from Russia, but South Ossetia was never recognized by Georgia or the international community. Southern Ossetia is marginally backed by Russia, in fact a lot of its population now has Russian citizenship. They would like to unite with Northern Ossetian and gain the autonomy that the Northerners have. There was some sort of agreement between the South Ossetians and Georgia that was enforced by Russia.
Georgia's current leader Saakashvili, who came on CNN this morning and asked for a cease fire and the return of Georgia's troops from Iraq, ran his election on being pro-western, Pro-NATO, and on regaining control of parts of Georgia, specifically South Ossetia and Abkhazia (another quasi-independent state).
So a few days ago he decided to take back Southern Ossetia, by force. In the course of this retaking of Georgia's lost provence some of the Russians enforcing the agreement between Georgia and South Ossetia were killed. Russia entered the fray, as has Abkhazia. Georgia is caught between Abkhazia and South Ossetia and outgunned by Russia.
Some people say Russia simply wants to defend Ossetians from "genocide." Others think they will use this incident to redraw borders and use the independence of Kosovo, which they greatly disliked, as precedence. Others think they are doing this in order to scare NATO into not expanding to Russia's border, essentially making an example out of Georgia in order to intimidate former soviet republics still within their sphere of influence.
And that's all I know off the top of my head.