LONDON Russia's conflict with Georgia and recognition of its small breakaway territories as independent states may have broad repercussions for separatist movements in the former Soviet sphere and around the world.
The crisis could give a jolt of energy to other breakaway regions, especially those with links to Russia, or embolden China to pursue a tougher line in Tibet and Taiwan in the absence of tough Western measures.
"Any country that has a potential separatist movement will view the events in Georgia through its own unique prism," Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. envoy who mediated peace in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, told The Associated Press.
"But the greatest cause for concern lies in the Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova," all former Soviet states.
With the exception of the Balkans, post-Soviet era Europe has grown accustomed to the notion of territorial integrity as stable if not sacrosanct.
Russia's push into Georgia and its recognition of the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have undermined this status quo and may start to warm up so-called "frozen conflicts" in Moldova's Trans-Dniester region and Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh, where Moscow backs separatist movements.
Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is encircled by Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenian forces. Russia has close historical and economic ties to Armenia, which surrendered control of key sectors of its economy to Russia in exchange for debt forgiveness.
For the Kremlin, the stakes in oil-rich Azerbaijan have been raised by Washington's plan to build a military base there a project that has incensed the Russians, who have a large military installation in Armenia with hundreds of personnel, fighter jets and air defense systems.
Russia also continues to back the breakaway Russian-speaking province of Trans-Dniester, that has split from Moldova over its feared reunification with Romania.
Russian troops remain stationed in the province to guard a huge stockpile of Soviet-era military equipment. It's a situation with eerie echoes to South Ossetia the flashpoint of the Russia-Georgia conflict where Russia kept "peacekeepers" before the eruption of this month's war.
"By illegally recognizing the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Dmitry Medvedev Russia's president made clear that Moscow's goal is to redraw the map of Europe using force," Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili wrote in an editorial that appeared in the Financial Times on Friday.
Perhaps nowhere are concerns about Russian designs in its "near-abroad" so acute as in Ukraine.
The country the size of France with a population of 46 million has long held a special place in Russian hearts and Moscow has been humiliated by its drive to join the European Union and NATO.
Many now fear Moscow has its sights on the strategic Crimea peninsula on the Black Sea once one of the glories of the Russian empire.
Russia has not explicitly declared it wants to regain control of Crimea but nearly 1.2 million of the region's 2 million residents are ethnic Russians, many of whom believe Crimea should be Russian.
Russia has a lease that gives it control of the Sevastopol military base until 2017 and has hinted that it does not want to leave when the lease runs out.
The events in the Caucasus have been watched closely by a resurgent China, which has tried to extinguish separatist movements in Tibet and its far western province of Xinjiang, where Beijing says radicals are trying to set up an Islamic state.
For Beijing, the Russia-Georgia conflict may be double-edged.
On one hand, the spectacle of South Ossetia and Abkhazia making a big leap toward independence with Moscow's backing may send chills through the Chinese ruling elite as it struggles with its own separatist movements.
On the other, the Kremlin's use of military might to reassert dominance in a region it considers own backyard could set a valuable precedent for Beijing as it maneuvers to assert its will in places like Taiwan which China has vowed to take back by force if necessary.
That may account for Beijing's ambivalent response to Russia's request for support at a meeting last week in Tajikistan.
China, along with four Central Asian nations, refused to endorse the invasion or recognize the breakaway provinces but also criticized the West and signed a statement praising the "active role of Russia in promoting peace and cooperation" in the region.
"We have our Western friends and those in Central Asia who are not in agreement with Russian actions. But we also have a strong relationship with Russia," said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at People's University in Beijing.
"So China just needs to take a middle road."
In Turkey, which borders both Georgia and Armenia and hosts pipelines for Caspian Sea oil, Kurds in the country's southeast near the frontier with Iraq have been fighting for self-rule in parts of Turkey's east and southeast.
So far there are no signs the Georgia conflict will give a psychological boost to the Kurds' flagging struggle or provide the Turkish government reason to consider a harsher crackdown.
In Spain, the Basque separatist group ETA's fight for an independent homeland has steadily lost support after a long and deadly battle that has killed hundreds in terror attacks. Any sign of separatists triumphing elsewhere in Europe may help revive morale among Spain's separatists.
"The Georgian conflict isn't likely to have a direct effect on the emergence of new separatist or secessionist movements but it has the potential to create a long-term precedent," said Nicu Popescu with the European Council on Foreign Relations.