SOON after taking power in a pro-Western uprising in Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili journeyed in February 2004 to Moscow, his country’s former taskmaster, for his first talks with Vladimir V. Putin.
Here would be the climactic face-off: on one side, a young and impulsive modernizer who fancied himself leader of so-called color revolutions that would sweep away unsavory holdover regimes from the Soviet years. On the other, a dour and calculating ex-K.G.B. spy who saw much to like in the old ways and wanted to restore his nation to its proper glory.
Only one problem. Mr. Saakashvili at first didn’t show up.
He supposedly lost track of time while doing laps in his hotel pool, arriving at the Kremlin half an hour late and leaving Mr. Putin seething, according to three Georgians who were there.
“I hope that you had a good time swimming,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Saakashvili. It would not be hard to imagine the look on Mr. Putin’s face.
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