He won his first presidential election in 2000, and in the following years his greatest point of conflict with the U.S. was Washington's plan to build an anti-missile defense system in Europe. In 2007, after Mr. Putin had delivered an anti-America screed during a speech in Germany, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an extraordinary offer. He told Mr. Putin that Russia could actually station staff at those missile-defense facilities, to be sure the missiles were not aimed at Russia. But before Mr. Putin, astonished, could catch his breath, the White House rejected Mr. Gates' proposal. Mr. Gates, it seems, had spoken out of turn. Mr. Putin was furious with Washington once again.