Ex-ambassador to Russia recalls colleagues scoffing at warnings of Ukraine invasion
Ukrainian servicemen carry rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles as they walk towards the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022. (Dimitar DILKOFF AFP)

Former United States Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan revealed on Sunday's edition of Face the Nation that scores of his colleagues were in shock over Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine despite repeated warnings by the West that Putin's attack was imminent.

Sullivan served under President Joe Biden in his post from 2020-2022 and was also deputy secretary of state from 2017 to 2019 in the administration of then-President Donald Trump.

Sullivan's retelling of events was promoted by CBS moderator Margaret Brennan:

February 24th, 2022 was a wake-up call for the world on the national security front. That's when Russia invaded Ukraine. And, Ambassador Sullivan, I know you were posted to Moscow at the time. It must have been surreal. I mean, European nations really didn't believe the United States that this was going to happen, and then it did. What was that like?

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Sullivan recalled that what transpired in the hours following Putin's "special military operation" were eerily reminiscent of the beginning of World War Two:

Well, it was literally a wake-up call in the middle of the night. We had a code. The watch standard at the embassy called me well before dawn to say that the invasion had started. We knew what was going to happen. We'd been predicting it for months. I'd spoken to Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken just a few days before, on February 19th, and he asked me what the mood was. And I said it felt like August 31st, 1939. A world leader was going to launch an aggressive war on the European continent with unknown consequences. I then thought, jeez, I hope I haven't overstated this. So, on the one hand, I was appalled by what happened on the 24th but relieved that my advice to the secretary of state turned out to be true. But we were very confident in our assessment about what he was going to do. The only question was when.

Brennan noted that "what was so surreal as a reporter was that all of our allies were doubting that Vladimir Putin would do this."

Sullivan agreed and recalled the widespread denial among Americans who were living inside of Russia:

Oh, listen, I spent a lot of time talking to fellow ambassadors in Moscow – the US business community in Moscow. I met almost on a weekly basis with the American Chamber of Commerce representatives – US business people who had been in Moscow for years. And I'd been telling them what was gonna happen and they scoffed. They said, 'oh, you're Chicken Little. The sky is falling. Absolutely not. This is irrational. Putin would never do it.' Those same people on February 25th were texting me on their way to the airport, saying 'goodbye, I was right.' And for those who had Russian spouses and children who may have dual citizenship seeking help so that their children, teenagers, wouldn't get drafted into what was going to be, they knew now a war that President Putin had launched.

Watch below or at this link.