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President Barack Obama on Thursday denied having an "icy" relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said the leader's tough guy demeanor is likely just part of his "shtick."
"I wouldn't call it 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," Obama said, according to a transcript of the interview with NBC's Bob Costas set to air Friday.
“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.
Putin, Obama said, understands the importance of working with the U.S. on areas of mutual concern.
Obama added that Putin's public efforts to come off as a hard-nosed negotiator are likely "part of his shtick back home politically as wanting to look like the tough guy."
The president was also asked about the message intended by picking openly gay former athletes as official U.S. delegates to the Winter Olympics. "There is no doubt we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," Obama said.
And when it comes to security, the president added that the Russians have "an enormous stake" in making sure the Olympics are safe, and that the U.S. has been working closely with the host country to identify and thwart any potential threats.