In his article, Clifford Levy analyzes the “hate story” of Mikhail Saakashvili and Vladimir Putin, one of the most decisive relationships in the post-Soviet era — a struggle between two men with utterly different characters and aspirations for this part of the world, but with certain similarities in how they seem to wield power. It is a rift that has had far-reaching consequences for the West, culminating in the war in August that was easily won by Russia and that caused the worst strains between Washington and Moscow since the end of the cold war. And even as tempers have now cooled a little, the bad blood between Saakashvili and Putin is a primary reason that this part of the world remains such a source of concern for the United States.
The two leaders’ impact on relations between their countries reflects the intense role that personality plays in governments in the former Soviet states. The author thinks their mutual dislike has in some ways come to define the current state of ties between Russia and Georgia.