By unilaterally recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abhkazia, Russia has taken the obvious (yet still chilling) final step in its game in Georgia--it has successfully broken up the country.
For years, the Russians have provided Russian passports to the de facto independent regions, and kept "peacekeeping" troops there. After the war with Georgia, the Russians promised to pull out of Georgia--even though they are still in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and allowing the locals to loot Georgian stores and kill Georgian people, the recognition means Russia is not technically violating the cease-fire; it recognizes the governments in these two regions that are asking for Russian troops to be there.
Not that the technicality matters, though. The West is still furious, but impotently so. Russia has now successfully managed to invade Gerogia and almost literally conquer territory for itself. This move means that if NATO admits Georgia into its alliance, the Russians will immediately use the status quo to protest to any idea that these two regions are under the NATO umbrella--and with many troops there, the Russians need only keep the status quo to keep Gerogia broken and weak; a severe and clear punishment for defying Russia's regional wishes.