US President Barack Obama said Thursday that Vladimir Putin's bored, tough guy act was just a 'schtick' designed to boost his domestic political image.

Obama and his Russian counterpart have become known for stilted photo ops during bilateral meetings at various 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 humor, and a lot of give and take," Obama said in the excerpts due to air later Thursday.

"He's always treated me with the utmost respect," Obama 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," he 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.

Washington and Moscow have been at odds over Russia's support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

But they did manage to cobble together a deal, yet to be fully implemented, under which Syria agreed to hand over its stocks of chemical weapons to avert the threat of US air strikes.

Russia's grant of asylum to US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, responsible for vast and damaging leaks about National Security Agency surveillance programs, has also revived a whiff of Cold War espionage standoffs between the two countries.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]