The Air Force approved the medals following tireless, 15-year fight of one the imprisoned aviator's grandsons: Army Maj. Dwight Mears, an assistant professor of history at West Point, Iraq war veteran and the grandson of Lt. George Mears, upper left. (Courtesy: The Mears Family)
It's recognition more than 70 years in the making.
Eight U.S. service members shot down and captured while fighting Hitler’s Nazi regime finally received long overdue Prisoner of War medals during a ceremony Wednesday at the Pentagon. For decades, the airmen were denied POW status, even though they were crashed over Germany and later held in a prison camp in Wauwilermoos, Switzerland. But after one of the airmen's grandson fought a 15-year battle to show what they had gone through, including the daring escapes that allowed them to get back to the fight, the Pentagon reversed course.
USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III presented the medals to seven of the veterans and one of their grandsons during the ceremony. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee authorized the awarding of the medal to 143 USAAF airmen earlier this month following a change in criteria. Army Air Corps First Lieutenant James Mahon, 91, is among those to be honored, some 70 years after his imprisonment after he and the rest of his B-17 crew were captured.
"It’s the kind of courage we read about in books, that people make movies about," Welsh said of the valor shown by the airmen. "But make no mistake about it, these men have that type of courage … and boy, did these guys saddle up.”
"It’s the kind of courage we read about in books, that people make movies about."
- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III
Mahon, a longtime New Jersey resident who now lives in a New Hampshire nursing home, told the Courier-Post he was thrilled about the news earlier this month.
“Great! We were happy to be alive so we could home,” Mahon told the newspaper.
Mahon said he would be accompanied to Wednesday’s ceremony with his son, Patrick, who saw his father’s decades-long fight with the Department of Defense denied because of Switzerland’s neutrality.
“The only difference between this camp and the German prison camps was that this one was easier to escape from,” Patrick Mahon told the newspaper.
The elder Mahon was a bombardier and a navigator when his plane crash-landed during a mission of the 429th Squadron, Second Bombardment Group from Italy to Germany. Mahon, according to military reports, made two attempts to escape Switzerland but was caught and imprisoned. On Dec. 29, 1944, Mahon, using a forged pass, escaped again and managed to reach Zurich, where he contacted American consul officials. He was later escorted to the French border by a guide who then traveled with to Italy in early 1945.
Lt. Col. Maureen Schumann, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon, has said Mahon and other Swiss prisoners did not meet the criteria for the POW Medal until last year when Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act, which revised the U.S. law on POW first created in 1985.
The Air Force approved the medals following tireless, 15-year fight of one the imprisoned aviator's grandsons: Army Maj. Dwight Mears, an assistant professor of history at West Point, Iraq war veteran and the grandson of Lt. George Mears.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, Nick Kalman, Anne Marie Riha and Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.
By Kevin Liptak and Faith Karimi, CNN updated 12:42 AM EDT, Mon April 28, 2014
(CNN) -- The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane will be entering a new phase that will use private contractors and may cost about $60 million, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday.
"I regret to say that thus far none of our efforts in the air, on the surface or under sea, have found any wreckage," he said.
The new phase will focus on searching the ocean floor over a much larger area -- 60,000 square kilometers, a process that will take about six to eight months.
Malaysian PM won't say plane is lost
Object in MH370 search not likely of use
'Object of interest' found in Australia
"We do not want this crippling cloud of uncertainty to hang over this family and the wider traveling public," he said.
It is "highly unlikely" that any debris will be found on the ocean surface, Abbott said. By this time, most of the debris will have become waterlogged and will have submerged, he said. As such, authorities will be suspending aerial searches.
Words of praise
Malaysia's government has been widely criticized over its handling of the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and disclosures of its investigations. But on Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama had words of praise during a visit to the southeast Asian country.
He said the Malaysian government has been "forthcoming" with the United States about the information it has.
"The Malaysian government is working tirelessly to recover the aircraft and investigate exactly what happened," Obama told reporters. He reiterated that the United States would continue to aid in the search and offered condolences to loved ones of those lost.
Narrowed search nears end
Obama's visit came as the initial search by the Bluefin-21 neared its end.
The submersible, which is on contract to the U.S. Navy, had been scouring the ocean floor for traces of the plane.
Previously, another device, a towed pinger locator, detected signals that officials believed were from the jet's flight recorders, which determined the current search area for the Bluefin.
The plane disappeared on March 8 after leaving Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for Beijing.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has said a preliminary report on the plane's disappearance will be available to the public next week.
He also asked an internal investigation team to look into what other information may be released publicly next week, his office said.
The U.N. organization said among the safety recommendations in the report is a suggestion by Malaysia that the aviation world needs to look at real-time tracking of commercial aircraft.
It's the same recommendation that was made after Air France Flight 447 went down in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.
"Anytime there is a tragedy like this, we ought to also reflect on what can be done going forward to prevent something similar from happening again," Obama said.
"That discussion has begun in Malaysia and around the world, and we'll see what improvements might be recommended to continue improving aviation security. One thing is already clear, however, is that large international efforts like this search operation benefit from existing partnerships among nations."
Today, April 25th is my older brother Dennis Charles Ozenne's birthday. Born in 1947, we lost Denny in the summer of 2008. Carl Wilson, a fellow Hawthorne Cougar, sang this when he lost his older brother Dennis " I love to tell people that Dennis was a great guy, because he really was and whenever we do this song we think of his spirit being in a beautiful space...."Carl Wilson Happy Birthday Dennis ! April 25 2014 ! Say hi to Stan Shortly after I graduated from Hawthorne High School in 1967,, my cousin Stan Reubecht, and my bother, both a few years older, took an apartment on 101st, one block south of Century Blvd, and one block west from Prairie Ave in Inglewood. One night, Stan help a party which I regrettably, could not attend , due to a previous date with Elsa Lamb. The next morning I came over. Stan had a giant bag of 10 hamburgers he had just got from McDonald's for $1.50. As I ate a burger, Stan informed me that my brother and Marcella, were together, right now, sleeping it off from a long night. I was very surprised, however, Cupids arrows were strong that night. They never spent another night without each other for 30 years.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will take public comments before moving forward with a new set of net neutrality rules that sparked controversy when they were leaked in a news report earlier Wednesday.
The FCC will release a proposal soon to reinstate net neutrality rules that would allow broadband providers to negotiate with content providers for preferential treatment, an agency official confirmed Wednesday.
But the FCC, in an upcoming meeting, will vote on whether to open the net neutrality proposal up to public comments, though the plan is not finalized, the agency official said.
Under the proposal, “broadband providers would be required to offer a baseline level of service to their subscribers, along with the ability to enter into individual negotiations with content providers,” the official said by email. “In all instances, broadband providers would need to act in a commercially reasonable manner subject to [FCC] review on a case-by-case basis.”
The FCC will seek comment on “exactly what the baseline level of service would be, the construction of a ‘commercially reasonable’ standard, and the manner in which disputes would be resolved,” the official added.
Digital rights groups Public Knowledge and Free Press objected to the plan to allow commercial traffic management agreements, sometimes referred to as peering agreements.
“The FCC is inviting ISPs [Internet service providers] to pick winners and losers online,” Michael Weinberg, a vice president at Public Knowledge, said by email. “The very essence of a’”commercial reasonableness’ standard is discrimination. And the core of net neutrality is nondiscrimination. This is not net neutrality.”
The FCC proposal would allow broadband providers to charge higher traffic management prices to Web services that they see as competitors, and dealing with issues on a case-by-case basis would cause confusion for Web entrepreneurs, Weinberg added. “This standard allows ISPs to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet,” he said.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron called on the FCC to pass “real” net neutrality rules.
“With this proposal, the FCC is aiding and abetting the largest ISPs in their efforts to destroy the open Internet,” he said by email. “Giving ISPs the green light to implement pay-for-priority schemes will be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls. These users will all be pushed onto the Internet dirt road, while deep pocketed Internet companies enjoy the benefits of the newly created fast lanes.”
The FCC is working on new net neutrality rules after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the agency’s net neutrality regulations in January. The appeals court said the FCC couldn’t enforce the rules because of the agency’s own classification of broadband as an information service, not a telephone-style, common-carrier service.
The court, however, pointed the agency to a section of the Telecommunications Act that gives it broad authority to ensure broadband deployment. That section of telecom law, the court said, could be used as authority to pass net neutrality rules.
The question of content providers paying for traffic prioritization has come up in recent months after Netflix entered into a commercial peering arrangement with Comcast, the largest U.S. broadband provider, in February. The deal gives Comcast subscribers faster speeds when watching Netflix videos.
Still, Netflix, in a blog post last month, called on the FCC to pass strong net neutrality rules to prevent large broadband providers from asking for increasingly higher fees to deliver traffic.
Trips down memory lane are now available on Google's digital maps.
The new twist on time travel is debuting Wednesday as part of the "Street View" feature in Google's maps, a navigational tool that attracts more than 1 billion visitors each month.
Street View snapshots will now include an option to see what neighborhoods and landmarks looked like at different periods in the last seven years, as Google Inc. has been dispatching camera-toting cars to take street-level pictures for its maps.
Google Inc. intends to keep adding pictures to the digital time capsules as its photo-taking cars continue to cruise the same streets gathering updates.
"As time goes by, many of these images are going to become vintage," predicted Vinay Shet, a Google product manager who oversaw the company's glimpse into the past. "We want our maps to be comprehensive as we build a digital mirror of the world."
Like everything else on Google's map, the time-tripping option is free. Google makes money off its maps from advertising, so the Mountain View, Calif., company is constantly coming up with new attractions to keep people coming back.
Even though the photos only date back to 2007, some of them illustrate dramatic changes. Some photos show how neighborhoods in cities like Tohoku, Japan looked before and after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck in March 2011. Others show the gradual recovery of New Orleans neighborhoods in the years following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Scrolling over to Washington D.C. will provide a look at the restoration of the historic Howard Theatre in the nation's capital.
In New York, the Street View map presents a string of photos illustrating the changing skyline as the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center was built. Even looking at the evolution of Times Square during the past seven years can evoke nostalgic feelings while gazing at a giant billboard advertising a flip-style cellphone in 2007.
The visual retrospectives aren't available throughout Google's maps, although Shet says there should be at least one look back in time for just about every neighborhood that can be viewed through the Street View format.
Google's new feature is displaying more photos of major city centers over time than suburban streets because the company's camera-bearing cars return to densely populated areas more frequently.
Adding the photos from the past will roughly double the total imagery in Street View once the rollout is completed in the next two days. Google declined to say how many pictures are already in Street View, which spans 55 countries. The look-back feature will be available in all but three of those countries: Germany and Switzerland, where government regulations restrict Google's use of the past images, and South Africa, where technical problems have slowed the feature's rollout.
When a retrospective is available in Street View, a small clock appears in the left corner of the current picture of a location. Clicking on the clock produces a visual portal into different time periods.
The trips can be emotional. For instance, Street View's scenes often include people who happened to be in the frame when Google's cars took the picture. Over time, some of these people will die and Google expects those pictures will have special meaning for survivors and other descendants.
Some Street View pictures posted through the years have also upset people who were captured in activities or visiting places that they wanted to keep private. Google now blurs the images of people who contact the company asking to be shielded from Street View. Masking will be available on the older photos too, Shet said, even if it's just because a person didn't like the way he or she looked a few years ago.
NASA is asking for everyone's help in celebrating the 44th anniversary of Earth Day -- by taking a selfie.
Marking the five NASA missions planned to take place this year, and as part of its "Earth Right Now" campaign, the space agency is encouraging everyone to step outside today and take a picture of themselves, wherever they are on Earth, and post it to social media using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie.
NASA's encouraging participants to be creative. Photos must be a selfie that gives an indication where they are -- whether it be through a street sign, the Hollywood sign, or the #GlobalSelfie template, which is available in a variety of languages.
Similar to the "Wave at Saturn" campaign last year, NASA is trying to create an image of Earth from the ground up, while showing off a collection of environmental self portraits. Once those pictures from around the world begin streaming in, the photos -- tagged #GlobalSelfie -- will be used to create a mosaic image of earth.
The final #GlobalSelfie mosaic, as well as a video using the images, will be released in May, according to NASA.
At last count, there were more than 22,000 images on Instagram, a slew of tweets on Twitter, a gaggle of photos on Google+, and a seemingly never-ending stream of photos on Facebook.
People from around the world have participated in the event so far -- with social-media posts from as far away as India, Qatar, and Rome. Some were taking photos with their families, friends, and co-workers, or even while jumping from an airplane.
"While NASA satellites constantly look at Earth from space, on Earth Day we're asking you to step outside and take a picture of yourself wherever you are on Earth," the agency wrote on the event page.
So, be sure to take a second to go outside today and snap a selfie in celebration of our home planet.
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – At Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, a helicopter drone hovers menacingly over a robot vehicle. The vehicle tries to evade the drone, turning right and left – surging forward and backward. Like an angry wasp, the drone swoops back and forth, staying directly in front of the robot – exactly one meter away, one meter off the ground.
And it does it all without a human at the controls. In fact, human hands can’t replicate what the drone did with such precision.
It’s all part of a series of complex experiments to determine whether drones can be safely integrated into already-crowded U.S. airspace, and what they might best be used for.
“I believe they’re going to be a big part of our future,” said university President Flavius Killebrew. “Maybe not in the way you see on some of the ads, but in ways that we haven’t even conceived of yet.”
The “ads” Killebrew refers to are “blue-sky” campaigns by Amazon, DHL and Domino’s pizza that envision a world where drones will deliver everything from DVDs to double-cheese stuffed crust. Complicated navigation in urban areas is years away, if even possible, Killebrew says. The more likely first application for drones, he says, will be in rural areas, far from buildings and people.
“Like pipelines,” he told Fox News. “You can fly a pipeline with sensors to determine if there are leaks.”
Texas A&M Corpus Christi is one of six test sites picked by the FAA to work out the details on putting commercial drones in the skies by 2016. One of the other test sites -- in North Dakota – just received approval by the FAA to conduct experiments using drones to survey crops.
According to the FAA, there are some 7,000 commercial aircraft in the skies over the U.S. at any given moment. The challenge is how to integrate thousands of drones in the same space.
That’s a task Texas A&M researcher Luis Garcia is tackling in his laboratory. He programmed the drone that was chasing the robot vehicle.
“The technology is there,” Garcia told Fox News. He said it works well in the laboratory. His drone completes very complex tasks without any real-time input from humans. Outside in the real world is another matter, Garcia said. “The problem is – how are we going to coordinate all of these things in the air, you know? It’s not an easy task.”
Down the street, in the ICore computer lab, Ahmed Mahdy and his graduate students are exploring the complicated software programming that will steer drones here and there. One of his assistants, wearing a Google Glass, stands in front of a four-rotor drone. “Take off,” he says, and the drone faithfully jumps into the air. “Right”, “left,” he continues, and the drone follows his commands. He tilts his head one way and the other, and the drone responds. Then, in a remarkable maneuver, he says “flip” – and the drone somersaults. “Land”, he says, and the demonstration is over.
Mahdy is thrilled by the prospect of drones flying hither and yon, doing tasks too boring or too dangerous for humans.
“Hopefully, in our lifetime, every household will have a drone – a pet drone that can help you as an assistant. Go do chores for you,” he told Fox News.
Before that can happen, there are enormous hurdles to overcome. For starters, drones use civilian GPS as their primary guidance system. In the past, Fox News has revealed how other researchers have been able to commandeer GPS-based navigation systems and take ships off course. With thousands of drones flying around, could someone either jam or hack into their navigation system? Killebrew said that is a real possibility and a potential grave danger.
“If it was in a very populated area, obviously, if it’s a large drone and someone brings it down, it could cause a lot of damage or harm. And we certainly don’t want that to happen.”
Killebrew said changes may need to be made to the civilian GPS system to protect drones against attack. The military GPS is encrypted, but the system commercial drones will use isn’t.
“It’s important that we harden the system so they are safe to operate, and somebody can’t jam them or take them over,” Killebrew told Fox News.
Equally important is that U.S. laws keep up with the technology. Most drones are equipped with cameras and make a very effective tool for spying. Privacy issues are a big concern as the nation starts moving toward unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
The FAA wants the first commercial drones to start flying by 2016. The Texas A&M researchers say that’s a realistic time frame, but that the skies won’t suddenly be buzzing with swarms of drones. Like the cell phone revolution, it will start small and then build over time.
The integration of drones into U.S. airspace will no doubt be driven by dollars. Killebrew estimates drones will be an $8 billion business in Texas alone -- $80 billion across the country. Researcher Luis Garcia agrees, pointing out that drones can do much of the same work as human-piloted aircraft for a fraction of the price.
He told Fox News, “If we manage to solve all of the issues concerning navigation – sense and avoid, control systems – then we’ll have a sky full of UAVs for sure.”
John Roberts joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in January 2011 as a senior national correspondent and is based in the Atlanta bureau.
This footage released by SpaceX shows the first test flight of the Falcon 9 reusable (F9R) rocket prototype. The video was recorded using a drone and shows the rocket taking off from it’s launch pad, rising to 820 feet, hovering, and landing safely back at it’s test facility in Texas.
The F9R testing program is SpaceX’s next step towards reusable rockets. Testing will continue in New Mexico where they will be testing at higher altitudes, testing unpowered guidance, and more flight like landing.
Happy Easter to all my friends and family members. It's a nice sunny Sunday here in So.Cal It occurs to me that the whole universe is a binary business, on and off. Planetary systems are born, then collapse, emerge than recede .Species are born, then disappear. Human life is born, then dies. It goes something like this, Life, Structure, Death, with structure being what we do, or leave behind, between our birth and death.
Jesus Christ washed his followers feet, and then stood up to the Roman Empire. He changed civilization when he taught, that death was not final, and proved it on Easter Sunday ! We (as Christians) have celebrated this event ever since. Life was not a final destination but rather a step in our ultimate destiny. The concept of life after death, in our scientific world, was bolstered in modern thought by the first law of thermodynamics.
Martin Luther, was a rebel and trouble maker to the pope and the Catholic Church. He was the founder of the Lutheran church, which started the protestant reformation. Luther believed that redemption was available to all, and not dependent upon deeds , but that it was a free gift, of God’s grace that only required faith in God's son, Jesus Christ.
Our present world is full of tension and strife. Not just Obama v Putin,, but congress cannot act adult either. There are civil wars everywhere. The people seeming oblivious to their own religious beliefs, which either eastern or western, teach service and peace in this life.
So, for this Easter weekend , I reaffirm my own Lutheran inspired faith, and remain on the spiritual path of this continuing spiritual education, of enlightenment, and the celebration of life.
Special Report: How the U.S. made its Putin problem worse
By David Rohde and Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON AND NEW YORK (Reuters) -
In September 2001, as the U.S. reeled from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vladimir Putin supported Washington's imminent invasion of Afghanistan in ways that would have been inconceivable during the Cold War. He agreed that U.S. planes carrying humanitarian aid could fly through Russian air space. He said the U.S. military could use airbases in former Soviet republics in Central Asia. And he ordered his generals to brief their U.S. counterparts on their own ill-fated 1980s occupation of Afghanistan. During Putin's visit to President George W. Bush's Texas ranch two months later, the U.S. leader, speaking at a local high school, declared his Russian counterpart "a new style of leader, a reformer…, a man who's going to make a huge difference in making the world more peaceful, by working closely with the United States." For a moment, it seemed, the distrust and antipathy of the Cold War were fading. Then, just weeks later, Bush announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, so that it could build a system in Eastern Europe to protect NATO allies and U.S. bases from Iranian missile attack. In a nationally televised address, Putin warned that the move would undermine arms control and nonproliferation efforts. "This step has not come as a surprise to us," Putin said. "But we believe this decision to be mistaken." The sequence of events early in Washington's relationship with Putin reflects a dynamic that has persisted through the ensuing 14 years and the current crisis in Ukraine: U.S. actions, some intentional and some not, sparking an overreaction from an aggrieved Putin. As Russia masses tens of thousands of troops along the Russian-Ukrainian border, Putin is thwarting what the Kremlin says is an American plot to surround Russia with hostile neighbors. Experts said he is also promoting "Putinism" - a conservative, ultra-nationalist form of state capitalism - as a global alternative to Western democracy. NOT PAYING ATTENTION? It's also a dynamic that some current and former U.S. officials said reflects an American failure to recognize that while the Soviet Union is gone as an ideological enemy, Russia has remained a major power that demands the same level of foreign policy attention as China and other large nations - a relationship that should not just be a means to other ends, but an end in itself. "I just don't think we were really paying attention," said James F. Collins, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Moscow in the late 1990s. The bilateral relationship "was seen as not a big deal." Putin was never going to be an easy partner. He is a Russian nationalist with authoritarian tendencies who, like his Russian predecessors for centuries, harbors a deep distrust of the West, according to senior U.S. officials. Much of his world view was formed as a KGB officer in the twilight years of the Cold War and as a government official in the chaotic post-Soviet Russia of the 1990s, which Putin and many other Russians view as a period when the United States repeatedly took advantage of Russian weakness. Since becoming Russia's president in 2000, Putin has made restoring Russia's strength - and its traditional sphere of influence - his central goal. He has also cemented his hold on power, systematically quashed dissent and used Russia's energy supplies as an economic billy club against its neighbors. Aided by high oil prices and Russia's United Nations Security Council veto, Putin has perfected the art of needling American presidents, at times obstructing U.S. policies. Officials from the administrations of Presidents Bush and Barack Obama said American officials initially overestimated their potential areas of cooperation with Putin. Then, through a combination of overconfidence, inattention and occasional clumsiness, Washington contributed to a deep spiral in relations with Moscow. COMMON CAUSE Bush and Putin's post-2001 camaraderie foundered on a core dispute: Russia's relationship with its neighbors. In November 2002, Bush backed NATO's invitation to seven nations - including former Soviet republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - to begin talks to join the Western alliance. In 2004, with Bush as a driving force, the seven Eastern European nations joined NATO. Putin and other Russian officials asked why NATO continued to grow when the enemy it was created to fight, the Soviet Union, had ceased to exist. And they asked what NATO expansion would do to counter new dangers, such as terrorism and proliferation. "This purely mechanical expansion does not let us face the current threats," Putin said, "and cannot allow us to prevent such things as the terrorist attacks in Madrid or restore stability in Afghanistan." Thomas E. Graham, who served as Bush's senior director for Russia on the National Security Council, said a larger effort should have been made to create a new post-Soviet, European security structure that replaced NATO and included Russia. "What we should have been aiming for - and what we should be aiming for at this point," Graham said, "is a security structure that's based on three pillars: the United States, a more or less unified Europe, and Russia." View galleryU.S. President George W. Bush shares a laugh with Russian President Vladimir Putin as the two answer …Graham said small, incremental attempts to test Russian intentions in the early 2000s in Afghanistan, for example, would have been low-risk ways to gauge Putin's sincerity. "We never tested Putin," Graham said. "Our policy never tested Putin to see whether he was really committed to a different type of relationship." But Vice President Dick Cheney, Senator John McCain and other conservatives, as well as hawkish Democrats, remained suspicious of Russia and eager to expand NATO. They argued that Moscow should not be given veto power over which nations could join the alliance, and that no American president should rebuff demands from Eastern European nations to escape Russian dominance. DEMOCRACY IN OUR TIME Another core dispute between Bush and Putin related to democracy. What Bush and other American officials saw as democracy spreading across the former Soviet bloc, Putin saw as pro-American regime change. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, without U.N. authorization and over the objections of France, Germany and Russia, was a turning point for Putin. He said the war made a mockery of American claims of promoting democracy abroad and upholding international law. Putin was also deeply skeptical of U.S. efforts to nurture democracy in the former Soviet bloc, where the State Department and American nonprofit groups provided training and funds to local civil-society groups. In public speeches, he accused the United States of meddling. In late 2003, street protests in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, known as the Rose Revolution, led to the election of a pro-Western leader. Four months later, street protests in Ukraine that became known as the Orange Revolution resulted in a pro-Western president taking office there. Putin saw both developments as American-backed plots and slaps in the face, so soon after his assistance in Afghanistan, according to senior U.S. officials. In 2006, Bush and Putin's sparring over democracy intensified. In a press conference at the first G-8 summit hosted by Russia, the two presidents had a testy exchange. Bush said that the United States was promoting freedom in Iraq, which was engulfed in violence. Putin openly mocked him. "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq," Putin said, smiling as the audience erupted into laughter, "I will tell you quite honestly." Bush tried to laugh off the remark. "Just wait," he replied, referring to Iraq. A PITSTOP IN MOSCOW? Graham said the Bush administration telegraphed in small but telling ways that other foreign countries, particularly Iraq, took precedence over the bilateral relationship with Moscow. In 2006, for example, the White House asked the Kremlin for permission for Bush to make a refueling stop in Moscow on his way to an Asia-Pacific summit meeting. But it made clear that Bush was not looking to meet with Putin, whom he would see on the sidelines of the summit. After Russian diplomats complained, Graham was sent to Moscow to determine if Putin really wanted a meeting and to make clear that if there was one, it would be substance-free. In the end, the two presidents met and agreed to ask their underlings to work on a nonproliferation package. "When the Russian team came to Washington in December 2006, in a fairly high-level ... group, we didn't have anything to offer," Graham said. "We hadn't had any time to think about it. We were still focused on Iraq." Graham said that the Bush administration's approach slighted Moscow. "We missed some opportunities in the Bush administration's initial years to put this on a different track," Graham said. "And then later on, some of our actions, intentional or not, sent a clear message to Moscow that we didn't care." THREE TRAIN WRECKS Bush's relationship with Putin unraveled in 2008. In February, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia with the support of the United States - a step that Russia, a longtime supporter of Serbia, had been trying to block diplomatically for more than a decade. In April, Bush won support at a NATO summit in Bucharest for the construction of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. View galleryU.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Los Cabos, Mexic …Bush called on NATO to give Ukraine and Georgia a so-called Membership Action Plan, a formal process that would put each on a path toward eventually joining the alliance. France and Germany blocked him and warned that further NATO expansion would spur an aggressive Russian stance when Moscow regained power. In the end, the alliance simply issued a statement saying the two countries "will become members of NATO." That compromise risked the worst of both worlds - antagonizing Moscow without giving Kiev and Tbilisi a roadmap to join NATO. The senior U.S. official said these steps amounted to "three train wrecks" from Putin's point of view, exacerbating the Russian leader's sense of victimization. "Doing all three of those things in kind of close proximity - Kosovo independence, missile defense and the NATO expansion decisions - sort of fed his sense of people trying to take advantage of Russia," he said. In August 2008, Putin struck back. After Georgia launched an offensive to regain control of the breakaway, pro-Russian region of South Ossetia, Putin launched a military operation that expanded Russian control of South Ossetia and a second breakaway area, Abkhazia. The Bush administration, tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, publicly protested but declined to intervene militarily in Georgia. Putin emerged as the clear winner and achieved his goal of standing up to the West. ONLY ONE MAJOR ISSUE After his 2008 election victory, Barack Obama carried out a sweeping review of Russia policy. Its primary architect was Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor and vocal proponent of greater democracy in Russia who took the National Security Council position previously held by Thomas Graham. In a recent interview, McFaul said that when Obama's new national security team surveyed the administration's primary foreign policy objectives, they found that few involved Russia. Only one directly related to bilateral relations with Moscow: a new nuclear arms reduction treaty. The result, McFaul said, was that relations with Moscow were seen as important in terms of achieving other foreign policy goals, and not as important in terms of Russia itself. "So that was our approach," he said. Obama's new Russia strategy was called "the reset." In July 2009, he traveled to Moscow to start implementing it. In an interview with the Associated Press a few days before leaving Washington, Obama chided Putin, who had become Russia's prime minister in 2008 after reaching his two-term constitutional limit as president. Obama said the United States was developing a "very good relationship" with the man Putin had anointed as his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and accused Putin of using "Cold War approaches" to relations with Washington. "I think Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new," Obama said. In Moscow, Obama spent five hours meeting with Medvedev and only one hour meeting with Putin, who was still widely seen as the country's real power. After their meeting, Putin said U.S.-Russian relations had gone through various stages. "There were periods when our relations flourished quite a bit and there were also periods of, shall we say, grayish mood between our two countries and of stagnation," he said, as Obama sat a few feet away. At first, the reset fared well. During Obama's visit, Moscow agreed to greatly expand Washington's ability to ship military supplies to Afghanistan via Russia. In April 2010, the United States and Russia signed a new START treaty, further reducing the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Later that year, Russia supported sweeping new U.N. economic sanctions on Iran and blocked the sale of sophisticated, Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Tehran. Experts said the two-year honeymoon was the result of the Obama administration's engaging Russia on issues where the two countries shared interests, such as reducing nuclear arms, countering terrorism and nonproliferation. The same core issues that sparked tensions during the Bush administration - democracy and Russia's neighbors - largely went unaddressed. A VAPORIZED RELATIONSHIP In 2011, Putin accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of secretly organizing street demonstrations after disputed Russian parliamentary elections. Putin said Clinton had encouraged "mercenary" Kremlin foes. And he claimed that foreign governments had provided "hundreds of millions" of dollars to Russian opposition groups. "She set the tone for some opposition activists, gave them a signal, they heard this signal and started active work," Putin said. McFaul called that a gross exaggeration. He said the U.S. government and American non-profit groups in total have provided tens of millions of dollars in support to civil society groups in Russia and former Soviet bloc countries since 1989. In 2012, Putin was elected to a third term as president and launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent and re-centralization of power. McFaul, then the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, publicly criticized the moves in speeches and Twitter posts. In the interview, McFaul blamed Putin for the collapse in relations. McFaul said the Russian leader rebuffed repeated invitations to visit Washington when he was prime minister and declined to attend a G-8 meeting in Washington after he again became president. Echoing Bush-era officials, McFaul said it was politically impossible for an American president to trade Russian cooperation on Iran, for example, for U.S. silence on democracy in Russia and Moscow's pressuring of its neighbors. "We're not going to do it if it means trading partnerships or interests with our partners or allies in the region," McFaul said. "And we're not going to do it if it means trading our speaking about democracy and human rights." Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that clashes over democracy ended any hopes of U.S.-Russian rapprochement, as they had in the Bush administration. "That fight basically vaporizes the relationship," said Weiss. In 2013, U.S.-Russian relations plummeted. In June, Putin granted asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Obama, in turn, canceled a planned summit meeting with Putin in Moscow that fall. It was the first time a U.S. summit with the Kremlin had been canceled in 50 years. Last fall, demonstrators in Kiev began demanding that Ukraine move closer to the European Union. At the time, the Obama White House was deeply skeptical of Putin and paying little attention to the former Soviet bloc, according to Weiss. White House officials had come to see Russia as a foreign policy dead end, not a source of potential successes. Deferring to European officials, the Obama administration backed a plan that would have moved Ukraine closer to the EU and away from a pro-Russian economic bloc created by Putin. Critics said it was a mistake to make Ukraine choose sides. Jack F. Matlock, who served as U.S. ambassador to Moscow from 1987 to 1991, said that years of escalating protests by Putin made it clear he believed the West was surrounding him with hostile neighbors. And for centuries, Russian leaders have viewed a friendly Ukraine as vital to Moscow's defense. "The real red line has always been Ukraine," Matlock said. "When you begin to poke them in the most sensitive area, unnecessarily, about their security, you are going to get a reaction that makes them a lot less cooperative." A PLIANT RUSSIA? American experts said it was vital for the U.S. to establish a new long-term strategy toward Russia that does not blame the current crisis solely on Putin. Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Wilson Center, argued that demonizing Putin reflected the continued failure of American officials to recognize Russia's power, interest and importance. "Putin is a reflection of Russia," Rojansky said. "This weird notion that Putin will go away and there will suddenly be a pliant Russia is false." A senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called for a long-term strategy that exploits the multiple advantages the U.S. and Europe enjoy over Putin's Russia. "I would much rather be playing our hand than his over the longer term," the official said. "Because he has a number of, I think, pretty serious strategic disadvantages - a one-dimensional economy, a political system and a political elite that's pretty rotten through corruption." Matlock, the former U.S. ambassador, said it was vital for Washington and Moscow to end a destructive pattern of careless American action followed by Russian overreaction. "So many of the problems in our relationship really relate, I would say, to what I'd call inconsiderate American actions," Matlock said. "Many of them were not meant to be damaging to Russia. … But the Russian interpretation often exaggerated the degree of hostility and overreacted." (Edited by John Blanton)