Acting US ambassador refuses to rule out military action amid Ukraine and Russia tensions

ITV News' Julie Etchingham spoke to interim US Ambassador Philip T Reeker, who had strong words on the build up of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine and appeared to not rule out military action

The acting US ambassador to the UK has said the Biden administration is focused on "relentless diplomacy" to de-escalate the looming crisis between Russia and Ukraine - but refused to rule out military intervention.

Speaking to ITV News, interim Ambassador Philip Reeker said the US and the wider G7 had agreed "massive and serious consequences for Russian action should be considered" if they went ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.

When asked by ITV News' Julie Etchingham if he would rule out a military intervention to halt any Russian invasion, Mr Reeker said: "I would leave that to the president to decide what is in the best interests of the security and interests of the United States and our allies, including Great Britain."

'I would not rule out any actions': When it comes to a potential military response, interim Ambassador Philip Reeker said he would leave it to President Biden to decide

The G7 - a group of seven economic powers - called on Russia to “de-escalate” its military build-up near the Ukrainian border, warning that an invasion would have “massive consequences” and inflict severe economic pain on Moscow.

The US and its allies worry that the buildup could be a precursor to an invasion, and have vowed to inflict heavy sanctions on Russia’s economy if that happens.

Moscow denies having any plans to attack Ukraine and accuses Kiev of its own allegedly aggressive designs.

The G7 has played down talk of a military response to defend Ukraine, with efforts focusing on tough sanctions that would hit the Russian economy, rather than just individuals.While questions remain over the US response to Russia, its chaotic evacuation of Afghans after the fall of Kabul has been widely criticised.

What example did the US set in its disastrous pullout of Afghanistan?

But when pressed on the pullout, Mr Reeker defended Joe Biden's handling of the situation.

He said: "What Joe Biden had been saying for some time was that 20 years and $2 trillion of effort in Afghanistan was enough that the interests of the security prosperity of the American people were better served by ending our military presence there."

Mr Reeker conceded the images of the desperate evacuees was "always searing and powerful and will always be with us" but said, "one has to be able to step back and look at what was accomplished."

He said he didn't believe the "extraordinary effort" involved in evacuating 130,000 people got the attention it deserved "by the US, military and diplomats on the ground, by the United Kingdom, by others."

When asked about the World Health Organization's prediction a million children under five will die of starvation this winter in Afghanistan, Mr Reeker said: "I think we've done a tremendous amount to give the people of Afghanistan an opportunity to rebuild their own institutions."

Mr Reeker remained coy when asked about the current state of British politics after repeated scandals put pressure on Boris Johnson.

'I leave British politics for the British people to decide'

He said: "I leave British politics for the British people to discuss and debate and decide certainly in our country, in the United States, we have plenty of politics for all of you to watch as well. And I'll just let let things play out. "When asked why the US had not yet appointed a permanent ambassador to the UK almost a year into President Biden's first term despite the importance of the relationship Mr Reeker said: "I'm glad we have an ambassador while we wait for the ambassador."

He added Mr Biden was "incredibly committed" to the UK, noting both of his foreign trips abroad had been to Britain.

Watch the interview in full: