Messing with the Truth: Disinformation in the West Spread by Alastair Crooke

Messing with the Truth: Disinformation in the West Spread by Alastair Crooke

24 November 2023

Kremlin propaganda is actively disseminated not only within the country but also in the West. Russia largely conveys its narratives through Western ‘experts’ who have a certain audience and recognition among foreign readers. One such individual is Alastair Crooke. Below, VoxCheck, in collaboration with the Center for Countering Disinformation of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, explains who Crooke is and what narratives he spreads in Europe.

Screenshot from an interview with Alastair Crooke (right) on the YouTube channel Judge Napolitano — Judging Freedom

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat and ex-MI6 intelligence agent. During his years of service to the UK government, Crooke operated in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cambodia, and Colombia. As an agent, he gathered intelligence and acted as a mediator in ceasefires between Israel and Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Fatah.

Despite his intelligence work, Crooke is the founder and director of the public organization Conflicts Forum. The organization’s goal is to help Western governments understand Islamist groups and their military resistance to Israel. In addition, Crooke regularly publishes articles on the Al Mayadeen television channel, associated with the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah. In one of his materials, Crooke justifies the HAMAS attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, claiming that Palestinian fighters were defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Crooke began working alongside Russians in 2016 when he joined the Russian discussion club “Valdai.” Among his articles is one with the title “Putin and the Art of Listening,” where he describes the military actions of the Russian president regarding Ukraine and Syria. While Crooke mostly gives interviews on the YouTube channel “Judging Freedom,” hosted by former New Jersey Supreme Court judge Andrew Napolitano, he also spreads narratives that align with Russian propaganda.

In an interview on May 5, 2023, with Andrew Napolitano, the former MI6 intelligence agent talked about the “awakening” of Russians who finally learned about Europe’s true attitude towards Russia: “In Russia, moods have changed significantly. People are deeply impressed by the hatred coming from Europe. Many of them considered Europe their friend, and they were shocked by this. The tone has completely changed. It is no longer perceived as a war against the government or a war to overthrow Putin. It is seen as an attempt to break up Russia as a whole. The idea is to divide Russia and enable other countries to access its resources. People in Russia see this as a program of division, not just a conflict through which the West wants to harm the Russian Federation.”

With this narrative, Crooke seems to be attempting to justify ordinary Russians, who are “innocent” and being “oppressed” by the “evil” Europe. However, if one looks at surveys conducted by Russians themselves, approximately 49% of the population supports Russia’s invasion.

To ease the acceptance of propaganda among their population, Russians have intentionally created an external threat — the West, which supposedly pursues an aggressive policy against Russia for its “destruction.” This compels people to unite, forget about internal issues in the country, and channel all their strength into fighting against an imaginary enemy.

In another speech, Crooke shares his own thoughts on ways to end Russia’s war against Ukraine. The former intelligence officer employs the already familiar narrative of “neo-fascists” allegedly influencing Ukrainian politics: “Russia declares that we will not accept a frozen conflict. We will not accept if you want to negotiate with us, as we did in March in Istanbul last year, the results of which were then canceled. We will not do this because we see that ultranationalists and neo-fascists in Kyiv dominate and influence politics. It is clear that they are responsible for the policy. I mean Zelenskyi’s absurd 10-point peace plan, which demands Russia’s complete capitulation. This is typical for ultranationalists. They will try to destroy Russia at any cost.

Since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, Russian media have been quoting Alastair Crooke more actively. In turn, he has increased the number of statements related to events in Ukraine. However, he presents them in a style characteristic of Kremlin propaganda. For example, he claims that international sanctions were not effective against Russia. On the contrary, he alleges that the sanctions strengthened the Russian economy and weakened the United States and Europe.

In this way, Crooke subtly calls for the lifting of sanctions due to their “ineffectiveness.” However, according to the words of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell, the Russian economy contracted by 2.1% in 2022. Car production fell by 48%, while the production of computers, electronics, and optics fell by 8%. Retail trade in Russia decreased by 10%, and wholesale trade by 17%. Therefore, if information about the “ineffectiveness” of sanctions is circulating on the internet, it is advisable to seek alternative sources, such as statements from international representatives.

To avoid falling into the trap of disinformation, it is important to assess the style in which the text is written. If the article contains hostile language, evaluative judgments, or sensational slogans, it is more likely that such a text may be untrue or manipulative.

Additionally, it is always better to verify the source that disseminated the news. For this purpose, you can use the resource Media Bias/Fact Check to see if the publication has previously spread fake news.

For a more detailed analysis of the narratives spread by Alastair Crooke in the West, watch this video.


The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations