Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and now executive board member, recently sat down to talk with Jessica E. Lessin of The Wall Street Journal. During the interview, he fielded several interesting questions about a variety of things including Google’s current relationship status with Apple, their continuous run-ins with patent litigation, and more…

First up, Lessin asks Mr. Schmidt how Google’s relationship with Apple has changed in the last year. Here’s his response:

“It’s always been on and off. Obviously, we would have preferred them to use our maps. They threw YouTube off the home screen [of iPhones and iPads]. I’m not quite sure why they did that.

The press would like to write the sort of teenage model of competition, which is, ‘I have a gun, you have a gun, who shoots first?’

The adult way to run a business is to run it more like a country. They have disputes, yet they’ve actually been able to have huge trade with each other. They’re not sending bombs at each other.”

On the surface, it certainly seems like the relationship between Apple and Google has deteriorated. Not only did Apple pull the YouTube app from iOS 6, but it also pulled Google’s Maps app, despite the fact that its in-house software was clearly not ready. And then there’s the growing competition between Android and iOS, and the mounting patent suits.

To that affect, Lessin asks if we’ll see a similar patent deal between Apple and Google that we saw with HTC. Schmidt says:

“Mr. Schmidt: Apple and Google are well aware of the legal strategies of each other. Part of the conversations that are going on all the time is to talk about them.

It’s extremely curious that Apple has chosen to sue Google’s partners and not Google itself.”

It is kind of interesting that Apple has yet to take Google head-on in the courtroom, especially given Steve Jobs’ famous proclamation to go “thermonuclear” on Android. Jobs made the comment, saying he was willing to “spend all of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank” to right the wrong, after seeing an HTC handset with pinch-to-zoom and other iPhone features.

The entire interview with Schmidt is worth a read, as it really does give some insight into the relationship between Google and Apple. And he also answers other lingering, non-Cupertino-related questions like: “is Google going to become a wireless carrier,” which is the subject of ongoing rumors, and he gives his thoughts on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.