Saakashvili, Mikheil


Saakashvili, Mikheil
(1967– )
   Georgian politician. Elected as president of Georgia in the wake of the Rose Revolution that swept his predecessor Eduard Shevardnadze from power, Mikheil Saakashvili immediately set to work integrating his country into the fabric of Europe and purging Russian influence over Georgian politics. His first victory came when he successfully reclaimed control of Ajaria, which, with Russian backing, had claimed de facto autonomy for several years.
   Russia, while dissatisfied with the result, accepted the situation. Saakashvili’s attempts to reintegrate South Ossetia and Abkhazia, however, were met with scorn in Moscow, due to robust economic interests in the regions and the presence of Russian peacekeepers. Saakashvili’s attempts to gain entry for his country into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) further displeased the Kremlin, which considered the Commonwealth of Independent States member within its exclusive sphere of influence. Tension came to a head in the summer of 2008 when Saakashvili ordered his troops to reclaim Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. Russia responded to the actions by launching the South Ossetian War against Georgia. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin saw the war as a way to permanently deal with the nettlesome Georgian leader, telling President Nicholas Sarkozy of France, during mediation of the cease-fire, that he wanted to “hang Saakashvili by the balls.” Saakashvili, who traveled to the conflict zone, narrowly escaped with his life. In Georgia, despite plummeting popularity ratings and criticism of creeping authoritarianism, he remains in power.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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