In the unearthed clip, Mrs Thatcher describes looking at the pictures of the “new Mr Putin” and trying to find a “trace of humanity”, a comment that was met with laughter from the audience at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, in September 2000.
“Because you know what happened? They had the terrible tragedy of the submarine going down, straight to the floor. Whether there was an explosion inside or not, we don’t know,” she said.
“But it was very interesting what happened. If ever there’s a calamity in the West, the whole of the armed forces will go, they’ll take everything there immediately.
“The politicians immediately will get together and say ‘what help do we want? They can have anything we can give. We haven’t got the help, we’ll get it from somewhere else.’ There will be anxiety because what mattered was not the submarine, but the lives of those in it.”
The Kursk, a 500ft long submarine assigned to the Russian Northern Fleet, was taking part in the “Summer X” fleet exercise, the first Russian naval exercise in more than a decade, in the Barents Sea in August 2000 when disaster struck.