The landslide victory of 37-year-old Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia's presidential election on Jan. 4 is a ray of hope for most Georgians. The U.S.-educated lawyer has promised to kick-start economic reform and strengthen Georgia's ties with the West.
But his victory involves risks as well as opportunities. It is causing unease in Russia, which has backed separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two enclaves occupied by Russian troops. In the wake of his victory, Saakashvili has stressed the importance of friendship with Russia as well as the West, retreating from his earlier anti-Russia rhetoric. But he will need to tread carefully to avoid tensions with Moscow. If relations between Russia and Georgia deteriorate, that would be a headache for the U.S., which backs the newly elected leader.
Edited by Rose Brady