French President Sarkozy, in Damascus this week, was also thought to be seeking Syria's help in dealing with Iran's nuclear program.
Moscow's strategy to drive a wedge between European countries was on display during Monday's EU crisis meeting.
In an emergency session Monday, European Union leaders threatened to postpone talks on a pact with Russia unless Russian troops pull back from positions in Georgia.
In the coming weeks, the West will be shaping a long-term response to what many see as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's bid to change the post-cold-war world.
Despite tensions over missile deals and NATO expansion, the West's ties with Russia are far more nuanced than in Soviet days.
The French president sees Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, as a matter of global security and NATO responsibility.
Moscow has gained leverage, threatened Georgia's pro-West leader, and bolstered national pride.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's failed attempt to retake South Ossetia may cost him dearly in Georgia, one of the strongest US allies in Russia's backyard.