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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Says Putin Always Tells Truth

APPutin's plane passing over Air Force One as he leaves a military base on Monday in Newington, New Hampshire.
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine -- After hearing scathing criticism of the United States and its foreign policy from President Vladimir Putin for months, President George W. Bush praised Putin for his truthfulness and frankness at their meeting in Maine.

"Here's the thing, when you're dealing with a world leader, you wonder whether or not he's telling the truth," Bush told reporters Monday. "I've never had to worry about that with Vladimir Putin. Sometimes he says things I don't want to hear, but I know he's always telling me the truth."

Later, Putin seemed to equate Russia's record on human rights and press freedom with that of the United States.

"Speaking of common democratic values, we are guided by the idea and principle that these are important both for you and for us," Putin said. "Even in the, shall we say, sustainable democracies, mature democracies, we see basically the same problems. ... It has to do with the relationship with the media; it has to do with human rights." Bush did not react to the evident comparison.

Bush and Putin's personal friendship has undergone strains in recent years. In February, Putin accused the United States of "an almost uncontained hyper use of force" in global affairs.

Michael McFaul, an expert on Russia at Stanford University, said he was puzzled by how easily Bush forgave and forgot Putin's harsh rhetoric. "He says all this, and for that he gets invited to a special event," McFaul said.

"The last thing I would expect to hear anyone say about the Putin administration is, truth, trust, comfort," said Sarah Mendelson, a Russia scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Relations in Washington.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia's critics wish it were in "transition" from its Soviet past. "But that time is over, and everything is changing."