Austin Long has a thorough account of the Soviet and Russian fear of Western missile defense capabilities in War on the Rocks under the title “Red Glare: The Origin and Implications of Russia’s ‘New’ Nuclear Weapons”.
He explains Putin’s revelation of new nuclear weapons in his March 1st speech as grounded in an old Russian concern with Western missile defense technology. The experience of being unable to respond to the German air campaign during World War II caused Stalin to focus intensely on the ability to retaliate in case of a nuclear attack. Already at that time there was talk about the dangers of an American missile defense which would leave Russia vulnerable to a first strike.
So when the Russian leadership is determined not to let an American missile defense threaten the retaliatory power of Russia, it is in line with a long history of military thinking.
So what does this mean for the nuclear relationship? First, U.S. leaders should recognize that no amount of explaining of the technical limitations of present or even potential U.S. missile defense capability is likely to change long and deeply held Russian views about missile defense competition.
Second, and more importantly, there is probably no future for formal, treaty-based U.S.-Russian arms control if the negotiations do not cover missile defense. The Russians sought unsuccessfully to include missile defense in the last round of strategic arms control negotiations (2009-2010). Today, with their “new” systems, they have a stronger bargaining position.