“The truth of the matter is that when we are in meetings, there are a lot of exchanges, there’s a surprising amount of humor, and a lot of give and take,” said Obama in excerpts provided by NBC.
He noted that Putin had “always treated me with the utmost respect.”
“He does have a public style where he likes to sit back and look a little bored during the course of joint interviews. I think that’s where some of these perceptions come up,” Obama added.
“My sense is that’s part of his shtick back home politically as wanting to look like the tough guy,” said the president. “U.S. politicians have a different style. We tend to smile once in a while.”
Obama and Putin have clashed on a number of issues, from the civil war in Syria — where Moscow backs embattled President Bashar Assad — to Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker who received asylum from Moscow, and over gay rights in Russia.
Obama, though, insisted that the two leaders would be able to work together despite any personal differences.
“The truth is, with any interaction between U.S. and Russian presidents, what’s going to be primary are the issues at stake, and where we have common interests we are going to work together,” said Obama.