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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 9th, 2013
05:19 PM ET

Analysis: What 'candid' and 'blunt' Obama-Putin conversations really mean

President Barack Obama elaborated on his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday, telling reporters that he does not have a bad personal relationship with the Russian leader.

"When we have conversations, they're candid, they're blunt, often times they're constructive. I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is, is that when we're in conversations together, oftentimes it's very productive," said Obama.

"Conversations that are 'candid' and 'blunt' – that's diplomatic speech they use when a conversation doesn't go well," said CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin.

Describing the Russian leader as a bored kid is also not exactly diplomatic language, said CNN contributor and Republican strategist Kevin Madden.

"The president has a real big problem here. He termed the reset with Russia as a number one, or a very top foreign policy objective for his administration, and it's totally unraveled," said Madden.

Obama cancelled a meeting with Putin earlier this week, following Russia's move to grant asylum to former National Security Agency contractor and U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden. An administration official told CNN the meeting would likely have been cancelled anyway, given the two countries disagreements on missile defense, Syria, missile reductions, economic and trade issues, and human rights issues.

The president needs to use this opportunity to articulate a clear Russia policy, and get the support of Congress and the American people, said Madden.

"Right now it's a muddled mess," said Madden.

Obama said Friday the decision to cancel the summit went beyond Snowden, and "had to do with the fact that frankly on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress, Russia has not moved. And so we don't consider that strictly punitive."

"American presidents have never gotten in trouble by criticizing Russian presidents. That's just nothing that American people are worried about," said CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.

"He can be as tough as he wants with Vladimir Putin, and he'll have the support of the American people," said Rosen.

Obama also spoke about the rift with Russia over the strict anti-gay laws.

"Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay legislation you've been seeing in Russia," said Obama. "One of the other things I'm looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold, and silver, and bronze, which i think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we're seeing there."

The president also said if the Russian team does not have any gay or lesbian athletes, it will probably make their team weaker.

But the president was clear that he did not support a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The promotion of gay and lesbian rights has been one of the signature legacy issues of the Obama administration.

"So standing up for the Olympics is not going to, you know, set that cause back for him. It's not a popular position to take, cancelling the Olympics," said Yellin.

Instead, Obama will likely continue to press Putin and the Russians on gay rights until the Sochi Olympics unfold, said Yellin.

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