Obama Cracks Wise At Putin's 'Tough Guy' Image, But Says They Get Along Fine

In general, most media reports characterize President Obama’s relationship with Vladimir Putin as “icy,” “frosty,” “testy,” or other adjectives of that nature. In an interview set to air Friday, Obama denied any bad blood between the two, saying that the Russian president has always treated him “with the utmost respect,” and that there’s “a surprising amount of humor” between the two. And yet these complimentary remarks were somewhat undermined by comments Obama made just moments later, when he theorized about why people might suspect that he and Putin don’t like each other.

“He does have a public style where he likes to sit back and look a little bored during the course of joint interviews,” Obama told Bob Costas. “I think that’s where some of these perceptions come up. My sense is that’s part of his shtick back home, politically, as wanting to look like the tough guy. U.S. politicians have a different style. We tend to smile once in a while.”

This definitely seems like an underhanded swipe, but at the same time, Obama is sort of right. There’s no denying that Putin has indeed worked hard to present himself as a macho guy to the people of Russia, and he does often look bored in joint meetings with Obama. To take just one example, here’s Putin and Obama at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland last year.

While U.S. — Russian relations have never been fantastic, they certainly took a noticeable dive after Putin, in defiance of Obama’s wishes, granted asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The two leaders were further divided over the Syrian civil war, and have most recently butted heads over the atrocious anti-gay culture perpetuated and endorsed by Putin’s regime.

But Obama also insisted, a bit implausibly, that he and Putin get along better than most people think.

“I wouldn’t call [the relationship] 'icy.' 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. He’s always treated me with the utmost respect.”

Photo credit: EPA/Alexei Nikolsky/Ria Novosti/KREM