As Leonid Bershidsky explained in a Bloomberg View post on the speech, Mr. Putin was apparently referring to an urban legend commonly mistaken for fact in the Russian news media and blogosphere — that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once complained that the mineral wealth of Siberia was so vast that it should not be owned by Russia, but by all humanity.
The fact that there is no record of Ms. Albright ever having made such a remark — and that she has denied it whenever asked — has not prevented it from being repeated again and again by Russian bloggers, journalists and even senior Kremlin officials.
When Mr. Putin was asked about the supposed comment in 2007, The Moscow Times reported, he replied, “I know some politicians entertain such ideas in their heads.”
Two years ago, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, wrote in an editorial that many in the West would be happy to see Mr. Putin fall, including Ms. Albright, who was, he said, dreaming of Siberia’s riches.
An article in Pravda the same year noted that “the scandalous phrase ‘Siberia is too large and rich to belong to one country,’ ” had been attributed to Ms. Albright. Although “the source of such a declaration has not yet been found,” the author Paul Chernyshev added, “this does not make her a friend of Russia.”
In October, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai P. Patrushev, said in an interview with the government-owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta that “many American experts, in particular former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, assert that there are vast territories ‘under Moscow’s power’ that it is incapable of exploiting and which therefore ‘do not serve the interests of all humanity
Without citing any specific source, Mr. Patrushev continued, “Assertions continue to be heard about the ‘unfair’ distribution of natural resources and the need to ensure so-called ‘free access’ to them for other states.”
According to an investigation by a former Moscow Times correspondent, Anna Smolchenko, the idea that Ms. Albright was jealous of Russia’s natural resources can be traced to a December 2006 interview with Boris Ratnikov, a retired major general from the Russian secret service. General Ratnikov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that his colleagues in the service’s secret mind-reading division had read Ms. Albright’s thoughts in 1999,just before the United States-led military intervention in Kosovo that she had championed.
According to the general, his colleagues had detected a “pathological hatred of Slavs” in Ms. Albright’s mind and that “she was indignant that Russia held the world’s largest reserves of natural resources.”
Asked by Ms. Smolchenko to explain how the mind reading had worked, General Ratnikov recalled that the team had studied photographs of Ms. Albright. “By tuning in on her image,” he said, “our specialists were able to glean these things.”