US President Barack Obama said that Vladimir Putin's bored tough-guy act was just "shtick" designed to boost his domestic political image.
Obama and his Russian counterpart have become known for their stilted photo ops during bilateral meetings at global summits, in which they stare straight ahead and share little warmth or sympathetic body language.
But Obama said in excerpts of an interview with NBC, timed to coincide with the start of the Sochi Olympics, that appearances can be deceptive.
He denied his relationship with his Russian president was "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 humour and a lot of give and take," Obama said.
"He's always treated me with the utmost respect," the US president said, adding that he believed that despite sharp differences between the Kremlin and the White House in recent months, Putin understood the need to work with Washington.
"He does have a public style where he likes to sit back and look a little bored during the course of joint interviews," Obama said.
"My sense is that's part of his shtick back home politically as wanting to look like the tough guy.
"US politicians have a different style. We tend to smile once in a while," he added.