PRESIDENT OBAMA is preparing to reach out once again to Russian ruler Vladimir Putin in the hope of striking a new agreement to reduce nuclear arms. The president mentioned the initiative in his State of the Union address; according to a senior Russian legislator, national security adviser Thomas Donilon will soon travel to Moscow with a letter outlining Mr. Obama’s ideas. The reduction of nuclear stockpiles is a top priority of this president and a worthy one. But what’s striking about Mr. Obama’s strategy is its seeming detachment from the reality of how Mr. Putin has governed Russia since his return to the presidency last year.
Mr. Obama’s first nuclear-arms agreement with Mr. Putin, in 2010, came about in the context of a warming of U.S.-Russian relations. The new proposal will hit Moscow in the middle of a Putin-directed campaign against both his domestic political opposition and the United States, which in his mind are linked. In recent months Mr. Putin has expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development, placed new restrictions on local nonprofit organizations receiving foreign funds, bumped U.S.-funded Radio Liberty from domestic airwaves and overseen a propaganda campaign that accuses the United States of orchestrating anti-government demonstrations.