The press, both Western and foreign, has been rife with speculation that there is some quid pro quo in the works between Presidents Vladimir Putin and George Bush over Georgia and Iraq.
Putin, so the reasoning goes, is willing to make a deal with the United States, giving the go-ahead for the use of armed forces against Saddam's regime, in exchange for a quiet nod so Russia's own military can go into Georgia and oust Chechen extremists from the Pankisi Gorge.
The Russians would thus get carte blanche to destabilize the corrupt and incompetent rule of Eduard Shevardnadze's government, which has been providing a sanctuary to Chechen terrorists for years. And the Americans would be free to do their worst in Iraq.
But if President Vladimir Putin who has so far shown considerable maturity in foreign policy opts for an all-out war with Georgia, it will be an act of colossal stupidity.
The United States has been increasing its influence in the region, much to the discomfort of many in Russia. The current state of affairs sees Russia clawing and growling in a bid to maintain at least a pretense of its status as a great-power.
But it is doubtful that Russia would even consider sending tanks and personnel into Georgia, especially now, just before winter snows make the region nearly impassable. Its threats are bluster, an attempt to force a reticent Georgia into accepting the necessity of serious Russian involvement.
It would be difficult for Georgia to seriously admit there is a problem, or for Russia, on the other side, to give Georgian concerns the respect they deserve.
There is no denying that a massive political rigmarole has surrounded the discussion, with Georgia denying the presence of "terrorists" in the gorge, then admitting to them, then asking for U.S. aid to clear them out, then agreeing to work with Russia, then wanting to clean them out on its own. It seems to be whatever has struck the Georgian elite's fancy on any given day of the week.
The Georgian government's earlier denials to the contrary notwithstanding, there now seems to be an international consensus that something very, very wrong is going on in the Pankisi Gorge.
What has not been admitted until now is that Tbilisi has played its own active role in destabilizing Russia in past years perhaps even with Washington's tacit approval.
The real question for Russia is what to do about it: how to find a solution that will be more or less acceptable to all parties, to pacify the region while, simultaneously, not rattling the Georgians, who are understandably concerned about the specter of imperial domination from the north.
Georgia is already deeply dependent economically upon Russia; the last thing it needs, in the view of an independent Georgian nationalist, is military dependence as well.
The problem for Shevardnadze, however, is that he has been more dependent on his friends in the United States than on Russia. That leaves the Americans to make a military decision, rather than the Russians, who have generally made it clear that the status quo is unacceptable.
Russia has a clear interest in influencing events in Georgia and the rest of the Caucasus, and openly hostile actions by rogue regimes under American protection cannot be tolerated forever.
There are doubtless many sections of the Russian political elite who favor an imperial, rather than a cooperative, solution to the instability that has bedeviled its Caucasian flank since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Any strategy for easing the problem will be a long, complicated one, fraught with ambiguity. However, one thing is certain; neither Georgia's reticence to admit its inability to cope with the situation alone, nor Russia's heavy-handedness, blustering and threats of war, will ever accomplish anything.