Talking to Russian students I told them that expert community in the US widely believes that Russia is trying to use its nuclear potential as a means of boosting its international standing. Nuclear weapons is one of the few fields in which Russia still wields unquestionable (or at least considerable) capability. So by constantly poking the nukes (not only in regard to its own weapons, but also in a wider sense trying to speculate about non-prolifiration issues, Iran, etc.) Russians try to re-establish themselves as a world power. In any case, of course Russia is a world power, but not quite in the same sense as USSR was and Russian leadership and Russian people nowadays regularly lament this fact.
I have not come across of proper understanding of the Russian tactics in this field though (I am not saying there is no understanding of this, I just have not heard it explicitly stated, it is a very simple idea, of course) The strategy of boosting Russia’s importance with nuclears is a double edge sword. It is important for the US to pay serious attention to Russian nuclear weapons in any case, but especially so if Russia is an adversarial country. In this case it is really necessary to court Russia into new agreements and try to reduce the possibility of the nuclear war, etc. But Russia is not the US’s adversary or at least Russia does not say that explicitly. So why the US should care about Russian nuclear weapons, if they are not spearheaded against the US or its allies? (especially as they are gradually decaying, if the reports got it right)
If, however, Russia still wants to use the nuclear talks with the US as a way of boosting its ego (I think it is an enourmously appropriate word here), then things should be cleared up: Russia is an adversary country. But Russians do not really want to be US’s adversaries. Russian leadership wants to use US’s tarnished image to scare its own population for internal political reasons, but they don’t want to be held responsible for that.