Nor is Russia likely to back down on its support for two Georgian breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which fought and won bitter wars of independence from Georgia in the 1990s. When Saakashvili launched a military invasion of South Ossetia four years ago, killing a dozen Russian peacekeeping troops, it triggered a massive Russian reaction that smashed the Georgian army and led Russia to officially recognize the independence of the two little statelets. While Ivanishvili has blamed Saakashvili for starting the war, experts say it would be impossible for him, or any Georgian politician, to concede the permanent loss of those territories.
But the personal antipathy between Saakashvili and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which goes back to the "Rose Revolution," may have played a role in the near-total alienation of Russia from Georgia following the war: The two sides have no diplomatic relations and trade between the two – Russia was formerly Georgia's chief trading partner – has sunk to just 4 percent of Georgia's total. Mr. Putin once notoriously threatened to "string Saakashvili up" by his nether parts, and swore never to speak to him. That could become a thing of the past next year, when Saakashvili leaves the presidency and the newly-empowered parliament takes control in Georgia, presumably with Ivanishvili at the helm.