The latest in fair observer’s series of fictional dialogues intended to make sense of the underside of the news.

FADE IN:

INT.OFFICE AT CIA HQ, LANGLEY VA. — EVENING

TWO SENIOR CIA ANALYSTS: TONY CATANIA (37), TAMMY AINSWORTH (45). THEY HAVE BEEN ASKED TO ASSIST ON STRATEGIC PLANNING FOLLOWING THE RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Well, we’re finally getting somewhere.

TONY CATANIA

You mean with the sanctions on Russia?

TAMMY AINSWORTH

No, I mean the whole situation. Just think back two or three years, when Trump was running the show.

TONY CATANIA

Yeah, our hands were tied. It wasn’t till last spring that we could start breathing again.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Bringing back Victoria Nuland at State was a big step towards reestablishing continuity.

TONY CATANIA

Yeah, you were close to her, weren’t you?

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Actually, I knew her husband, Robert Kagan, from way back, before I joined the agency. He was a classmate of my husband.

TONY CATANIA

Interesting that Biden brought her back. After all, she was the one who got the whole Ukraine scenario rolling back in 2013.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Yeah, we saw her socially in that period. She pretty much set up our programs we launched with the new regime in 2014 to train the hapless Ukrainians.

TONY CATANIA

And we’re finally getting the payoff. After eight years of preparation — including those four of total uncertainty with Trump — we finally have a State Department that sees the potential.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

How do you see it playing out? I haven’t talked to Vicki lately.

TONY CATANIA

Well, look at what we’ve already accomplished. It’s chaos over there and everyone in the media is amplifying the effect. Putin is toast. Our guys are still there applying the pressure.

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TAMMY AINSWORTH

You really think Putin’s that vulnerable? He may not go easily. The guys at the Pentagon say he’s a tough cookie.

TONY CATANIA

But look at the big picture. We’ve taken him for a ride. He went for the bait. You gotta hand it to the Biden team. Planning the Ukrainian escalation on Dombas for February was a stroke of genius. And because of all the weird talk predicting the Russian attack, no one noticed the Ukrainian escalation on the ground that was already taking place.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Yeah, that was fun for our guys working with the Ukrainian military, building up the drama to take back Dombas and controlling the narrative.

TONY CATANIA

Knowing of course they couldn’t take it without provoking the Russian invasion.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Yeah, we knew it. Not sure the Ukrainians understood that.

TONY CATANIA

Unlikely, unless someone tipped them off. The corker was Foggy Bottom’s brilliant idea of predicting Putin’s invasion and even the date. Pure magic. Worthy of Penn and Teller. They got exactly what they wanted.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

More like David Copperfield! That was as good as making the Statue of Liberty disappear.

TONY CATANIA

That was a crazy find for the State Department, better known for bumbling through mismanaged crises.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

And of course the Ukrainians played their role beautifully.

TONY CATANIA

Keeping them in the dark helped.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Yeah, it always does. Now it’s up to them to keep the struggle going as long as possible. Have you heard anything from our guys in Moscow? Putin must be reeling by now.

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TONY CATANIA

Nothing much, except the usual psychologizing of the media. We haven’t given them much to work with. Our chief told us to stay calm and keep a low profile. This is gonna take a couple of years, probably. It’s too early to start any of the serious organizing Nuland’s team have been planning.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

So we just sit back and watch?

TONY CATANIA

No. Rest assured, we’re on top of this. In any case, that’s what they tell me. Our job is to keep an eye on the media for the moment, feed them the news of the day and make sure they run with it.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Boring! That’s not much of a challenge. The media are lapping up everything we give them.

TONY CATANIA

OK. So, we’re doing our job and they’re doing their job. What more can you ask for?

TAMMY AINSWORTH

Like getting some action going. People expect it from us. There must be more exciting things to do.

TONY CATANIA

The action’s in the Pentagon’s hands, not ours, at least until some turning point happens and we have to recalibrate.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

What worries me is the cost of waiting. With elections coming up, it doesn’t look good for the current administration and with Republicans controlling Congress it could get messier. I’d like to see a few things resolved before November when things are likely to start unraveling.

TONY CATANIA

Don’t be such a pessimist. Unless Trump or Pompeo or somebody like that comes back in 2024. We’re cool till then.

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TAMMY AINSWORTH

Yeah, unless the whole damn thing backfires, like Iraq.

TONY CATANIA

Even that’ll take time. In any case, you know about the planning. By 2024 we’ll have already moved on to China and Taiwan. That’s where our focus will be.

TAMMY AINSWORTH

You’re right. I guess in a year or so we may be writing the whole Ukrainian thing off as just another boring interlude.

TONY CATANIA

You know the score. There’ll always be bigger challenges ahead.

FADE OUT

N.B. Tony and Tammy are confirming the testimony of retired Swiss colonel and NATO expert, Jacques Baud, who describes events in February in the days preceding the Russian invasion on February 24. Citing “the daily reports of OSCE observers,” he reveals that “since the 16th, the [Ukrainian] artillery shelling of the populations of Donbass has increased dramatically.”

Fair Observer’s running feature Fly on the Wall is a series of imaginary, but believable dialogues intended to use fiction to help us make sense of the world. Each fictional dialogue takes place in a private setting between sometimes real, sometimes imaginary people in the news or behind the production of news. By exploring the motivation and intentions of the characters, these dialogues provide an opportunity to illuminate the shadows lurking in the secret corners of current events.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.