Ahead of Sochi's Opening Ceremonies, President Obama Denounces Russia's Anti-Gay Laws

It's little secret that the relationship between the United States and Russia has been, shall we say, tense in recent months. Not only has President Barack Obama opted not to attend the Sochi Olympics in protest of Vladimir Putin's anti-gay laws — opting to send an Olympic committee in his place — but the commander-in-chief also talked to NBC's Bob Costas prior to the 2014 Opening Ceremonies and firmly supported progressive ideals. "We do not abide by discrimination in any form," said Obama during the interview. "One of the wonderful things about the olympics is you are judged by your merit. How good you are, regardless of where you come from ... who you love."

Indeed, Obama doesn't seem to be the only person who is speaking out against Putin's laws. During Sochi's Opening Ceremonies, Greece wore rainbow-colored gloves, and band t.A.T.u. was backed by performers with rainbow tracksuits. (As for Germany's colorful garb? The German Olympic Sports Confederation insisted that the uniforms were “not a protest.”)

Still, the president is attempting to be civil with Putin. Insisting during the interview with Costas that he was working with Russia on security concerns, Obama also told the NBC reporter that he's made progress with the country, despite popular opinion.

In my first term, we were able to reduce nuclear stock piles. There have been ups and downs in the relationship during the course of these five years. There's always going to be a balance ... It is a constructive, respectful relationship, but there are going to be times when we have real differences.

But Obama also gave Costas access into the mood that exists in the room when Putin and Obama chat. And, based on Obama's words, it's fairly friendly.

When we sit down and talk, there's not a lot of beating around the bush or niceties ... When we're in meetings, there's a lot of exchanges, there's a surprising amount of humor. And a lot of give and take. And he's always treated me with the utmost respect.

Hard to believe, considering how we usually see Putin. But, as Obama says, it's all for show. "He does have a public style, where he likes to sit back and look a little bored during the course of joint interviews, and I think that's where some of these perceptions come up," said Obama. "That's part of his schtick back home."

And, as anyone who has ever been on the Internet can attest, we are well aware of his schtick.

RELATED: For photos from the Sochi Olympics’ Opening Ceremony, click into the gallery below.

Image: Getty