Oksana Markarova made the comments during an interview with CBS’s Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation on Sunday.
Wooden guns are used for training at a Kyiv Territorial Defence unit training session
She warned that Russian forces would not stop at claiming Ukraine’s territory, and would threaten all of eastern Europe if the west did not oppose them.
“I believe nobody’s safe if Ukraine will be attacked,” the ambassador told CBS News.
She added: “[I]f Ukraine will be further attacked by Russia, of course, they will not stop after Ukraine. So that’s why it’s in the interest of Europe and all democratic world, to help us to defend ourselves but also to show that the international rule of law still works.”
The ambassador did not portray the issue as one of Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO, the Soviet-era alliance formed to deter Russia and its allies, but rather one of Moscow’s supposed disapproval of the idea of having a pro-western democracy on its doorstep.
“The reason why Putin attacked us is not because he wants Ukraine, or only Ukraine. The reason he attacked us is because we have chosen to be a democracy and we have the Atlantic and European aspirations,” said Ms Markarova.
A top official in the US State Department, Under Secretary Victoria Nuland, reiterated in her own interview with Ms Brennan that Mr Putin still had all options on the table, including both invasion as well as a peaceful retreat from Ukraine’s borders.
“We don’t believe [Putin]’s made a decision, but as he’s done in the past he’s given himself every option, including … a massive potential invasion of all of Ukraine, including cyber attacks, including incursion from Belarus,” said Ms Nuland.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee agreed. Sen Dick Durbin told NBC’s Meet the Press that while “any decision on Ukraine will be made by Ukraine”, he thought that Ukraine and Russia could come to “a way out of this short of military action”.
Mr Durbin went on to suggest that if Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, were to accept a deal that limited his country’s future engagement with the NATO military alliance it could be the first step at easing such tensions.
The comments represent a slight change in tone from several parties involved; Ukrainian officials had been said last week, particularly surrounding a call between Mr Zelensky and President Joe Biden, that the US needed to tone down its rhetoric regarding the likelihood of a Russian invasion.
US officials, meanwhile, had been reportedly describing the potential of an invasion as all but inevitable in the coming weeks, a marked difference than the suggestions from both Ms Nuland and Mr Durbin on Sunday.
Mr Biden even reportedly told Mr Zelensky on that phone call last week that Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, could be “sacked” during the fighting, a Ukrainian government official who remained anonymous told several news outlets.
Russian officials have continued to demand that Ukraine be barred from joining the NATO alliance and have refused allegations from the west including the US regarding their supposed plans to invade, even as tens of thousands of troops amass near Ukrainian territory and the country retains control of territory seized during the 2014 invasion of Crimea.
US lawmakers in Congress are in the meantime working on a new package of sanctions targeting top Russian officials, an effort that Ms Nuland confirmed to CBS News was being done in conjunction with the White House and broader Biden administration. It’s not yet clear whether more sanctions will be implemented against Russia if the situation remains as it is in the coming weeks.
Mr Biden has vowed to “personally sanction” Mr Putin if conflict breaks out. A US official told The Independent last week that the Biden administration’s plan is to “maximise pain in the Kremlin” if invasion occurs, including potentially via measures targeting the country’s largest financial institutions.