Russian president Vladimir Putin said he is envious of US president Barack Obama because he "can spy and get away with that".
Putin went on to deny that Russia was "working" with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who has sought asylum in Russia.
During an annual news conference, Putin said any revelations published by Snowden must have come from material he had before arriving in Russia.
"To speak in professional jargon, operatively speaking, we are not working with him, and we never worked with him," Putin said. "It is up to him to determine his future [...] we are not going to help him, just give him shelter."
The president, 61, looked relaxed at the annual Q&A which usually lasts a few hours.
He admitted that Snowden is "quite an interesting personality" and thanks to him "mentality in the world changed for millions of people".
Putin also said that NSA surveillance is needed to fight terrorism, but must follow some rules and norms.
"Everyone spies on each other. It was one of the oldest jobs [...] just like other jobs I will not mention," Putin said, stopping short of mentioning a sexual-related joke.
NSA surveillance "isn't a cause for joy, but not a cause for repentance either," Putin added.
Putin also said that Russia has not deployed missiles to the Kaliningrad region that borders Nato and EU members Poland and Lithuania.
He said Russia has long considered the move, but added, "we haven't made the decision yet" on deploying them.