Who knows if this is true—and there is plenty of reason to doubt it. After all, it was leaked by Élysée and it strongly implies that Sarko the Super Diplomat single-handedly prevented Russian troops from overrunning Tblisi. Regardless, the portrait of Vladimir Putin rings true:
With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia's Government. According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. "I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls," Mr Putin declared.
Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. "Hang him?"—he asked. "Why not?" Mr Putin replied. "The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein." Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: "Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?" Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: "Ah—you have scored a point there."
I discussed the Russian invasion of Georgia with author Andrew Meier here.