Since then, relations have been in a deep freeze.
Both Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev have made angry – and sometimes very personal – allegations against Mr. Saakashvili, and the Kremlin appears to have hoped that he would be unseated in an unsuccessful wave of Georgian opposition protests that took place earlier this year.
Yet Mr. Medvedev said this month that he favors restoration of direct air service between Moscow and Tbilisi, and Russia's border service hailed last week's decision to reopen the Upper Lars checkpoint, citing the "shared need to resume international traffic between Russia and Georgia."
Russia's only Caucasus ally, Armenia, has suffered badly from the cutoff of land transport links. Moscow maintains a cold war-era military garrison in Armenia, reportedly with more than 1,000 troops, and has had chronic difficulties resupplying them.