Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
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(CNN) – Russia has an end game in Ukraine. And it may not involve swallowing up more of the country, says former Defense Department official Peter Brookes.
Russia's goal is "having complete sphere of influence over Kiev, making sure the natural gas can flow, making sure there's no security challenge to them," Brookes said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
When ousted President Viktor Yanukovych was in power, Russia felt "very comfortable," says Brookes.
"They don't feel so comfortable anymore now that he is gone. They've got to make sure somebody in there isn't going to undermine Russia's interests," said Brookes.
Over the weekend, pro-Russian protesters seized a number of government buildings including regional headquarters in eastern Ukraine. The State Department says there is strong evidence indicating that some of the "separatists" are not locals, and are being paid.
"I believe there are Russian agents of influence there, certainly within that part of the country. And then probably some of the SPRR, which is Russia's foreign intelligence service, operating there," said Brookes.
The goal is to set up the same scenario as Crimea.
"Putin can say to the world: These people want to be liberated, they don't want to be part of Ukraine anymore," said Brookes.
But Brookes said this is all part of negotiation, and if "Russia gets what they want out of Kiev, they may not go into Ukraine, or try to take eastern Ukraine into Russia."
There is hope that a diplomatic solution can still be worked out. Kerry and Lavrov discussed holding talks in the next ten days among the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the European Union.