From Radio Free Europe comes an article entitled "Did Russia Plan Its War In Georgia?" in which the author cites a Russian military analyst with purported links to the Russian military as saying that Russia had planned the incursion into Georgia since April, when Georgia and Ukraine were denied entry into NATO at the summit in Bucharest:
Before the guns of August, there were the maneuvers of July.
Less than one month before Russia's armed forces entered Georgia on August 8, they held massive military training exercises in the North Caucasus involving 8,000 servicemen and 700 pieces of military hardware. [...]
"A decision was made for the war to start in August. The war would have happened regardless of what the Georgians did. Whether they responded to the provocations or not, there would have been an invasion of Georgia," Felgenhauer says. "The goal was to destroy Georgia's central government, defeat the Georgian army, and prevent Georgia from joining NATO." [...]
April – the month in which Felgenhauer claims Russia made its decision to invade – was also the month when the NATO military alliance declined to offer outright a Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Georgia and Ukraine at its annual summit in Bucharest.
And Felgenhauer isn't just speaking retrospectively – a month ago, he warned that something like this might happen:
"I am afraid that there is a very strong possibility that military activity will happen this year, probably in the next month," Felgenhauer told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service. "We could have a full-scale military conflict."
Andrei Illarionov, former Putin adviser turned critic, echoed the same thoughts, saying that the invasion "had been long prepared and successfully executed."
A diplomatic move that took place over a year ago also provides evidence that Russia was up to no good:
For now, there is no smoking gun to prove Russia methodically plotted its incursion into Georgia. But the first sign that Russia might seek a military advance on Georgia came more than a year ago – in July 2007, when Moscow withdrew from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, an amended Cold War-era document setting limitations on troops and military hardware between the Atlantic and the Ural Mountains.
There are some who are so reflexively anti-American in the foreign policy realm (a subset which, unfortunately, includes a lot of anti-interventionist libertarians) that they uncritically accept the Russians' narrative, and don't question the Russians' own interventionist stance. But for those who consider the facts, it seems obvious that Russia very much wanted this conflict, and that South Ossetia was nothing more than a pretext. Georgian malfeasance notwithstanding (though Russia's number of 2000 South Ossetian citizens dead seems highly exaggerated), Russia didn't give two shits about the South Ossetians or the Abkhazians, but was more than willing to capitalize on their plight to achieve its ultimate goal of scaring the West out of the Georgian pipeline business.