Georgia’s forty-year-old president, the liberal Mikheil Saakashvili, may possess many admirable attributes—dashing looks, fluency in several languages (including English), a degree from Columbia Law school, and a heartfelt commitment to a Westward-looking future for his country—but strategic acumen, even plain old-fashioned common sense, do not, it is now tragically apparent, figure among them. Rather, Saakashvili is well-known in Georgia for his authoritarian streak and hotheadedness—the most damning character flaws imaginable in a confrontation with the calculating former spymaster and current Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.
Georgia's Guerrilla Option (August 13, 2008)
Russia's attack on Georgia raises the question of how weak states can defend themselves against strong states. By Reihan Salam
The Advantage of the First Move (August 11, 2008)
"The truth is, Russia has called the West's bluff on Georgia and won." By Robert D. Kaplan
Where Europe Vanishes
In the November 2000 Atlantic, Robert D. Kaplan explored the roots of the Russia-Georgia conflict.
Saakashvili won presidential elections in 2004 promising to impose Tbilisi’s writ on the three Russia-backed rebellious republics of Ajaria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. In short order, without firing a shot, he reclaimed Ajaria and sent its leader, Aslan Abashidze, fleeing to Moscow. But his reckless decision last week to shell and then invade South Ossetia (populated mostly by ethnic Ossetes holding Russian passports) and attack Russian forces stationed there, combined with his now obviously misplaced faith in the senior Bush administration officials, including President Bush himself, who have been glad-handing him since he came to power following the Rose Revolution of 2003, may yet undo his presidency and return Georgia to Russian vassalage.