WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump has said in an interview that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin "get along very, very well" and that the two had "an excellent meeting" on the sidelines of last week's Group of 20 meeting in Germany.
Speaking to Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) founder Pat Robertson, Trump on July 12 said, "I think we get along very well, and I think that's a good thing. That's not a bad thing."
"People said, 'Oh they shouldn't get along.' Well, who are the people that are saying that? I think we get along very, very well," he said.
The interview is to be broadcast on July 13 by the Christian-themed television network, which released a partial text of the conversation on its website.
Trump met with Putin on July 7 in Hamburg in a session that was originally scheduled to last 35 minutes but which ran much longer.
"We had a good meeting," Trump said in the interview. "It was a face-to-face meeting. It was a long meeting. It was two hours and 15 minutes."
"We are a tremendously powerful nuclear power, and so are they. It doesn't make sense not to have some kind of a relationship," Trump said.
Trump has been criticized by Democrats and some Republicans for his perceived deference to Putin and his criticism of NATO and other Western organizations.
In his defense, he took a swipe at his 2016 presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, saying Putin would have been happier had Clinton won the election because, under her, U.S. military strength would have been "decimated."
"We are the most powerful country in the world, and we are getting more and more powerful because I'm a big military person," Trump said.
"If Hillary had won, our military would be decimated…From day one, I wanted a strong military. He doesn't want to see that," Trump added.
Trump also said the cease-fire deal brokered with the Russians in Syria is an example of the success he has achieved with Putin so far.
"One thing we did is we had a cease-fire in a major part of Syria where there was tremendous bedlam and tremendous killing….The cease-fire has held for four days…That's because President Putin and President Trump made the deal, and it's held."
The United States, Russia, and Jordan agreed to press combatants in Syria's six-year civil war to suspend operations in the southwestern portion of the country.
Russia supports the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States backs antigovernment rebels in the bloody conflict.