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Foreign policy expert: Ukraine crisis is at a ‘tipping point’

Increased violence in eastern Ukraine has experts concerned Russia might be using this latest round of protests as a pretext to move into the region to protect those demanding closer ties to Moscow.

Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland spoke to Robert Zarate about this weekend’s developments. Zarate is the policy director for the Foreign Policy Initiative, a diplomatic policy think tank.

“The [crisis] is reaching a tipping point,” Zarate said. “Worry is the Russian military and Vladimir Putin might use this escalating situation as a pretext to send troops … to invade eastern Ukraine.”

Zarate fears Ukraine’s eastern provinces could meet the same fate as Crimea, the region that was annexed by Russia in March.

“If this is the game Putin wants to run, we have to be willing to compete at the same game over the long-term.”

- Robert Zarate

Any direct combat between Ukrainian and Russian forces, experts warn, would be a lopsided conflict.

“The Ukrainian military can’t in a fair fight stand up to the Russian military, though there are a lot of vulnerabilities the Russians have,” Zarate said.

While Russia has threatened to reduce its energy supply to Europe, any action taken by Moscow could backfire.

“[Russians] rely on the pipeline running through Ukraine and if those were attacked, disabled … that would hurt Russia’s economy and oil sector,” Zarate said.

He says the long-term strategy is weaning European countries off of their energy dependence with Russia.

“This means building new pipelines … exporting more U.S.-origin liquid natural gas and other sources of energy,” Zarate said. “If this is the game Putin wants to run, we have to be willing to compete at the same game over the long-term.”

Watch the full interview with Robert Zarate above.