Noah Carl writing for the Daily Sceptic examines this all-important question.
Well, if Russia was indeed provoked then the western narrative, that Russia is an evil nation ruled by a power-mad despot desperate to reconstruct the old Soviet Union, does rather take a hit. It opens the door to consideration of whether Russia is doing no more than defending (a) its reasonable interests and (b) the people of the Donbas.
As in nearly all such questions, much is lost in the mists of times past and war current, and almost nothing can be said to prove the point beyond reasonable doubt, but when so many issues all point in the same direction then the reasonable man on the Clapham omnibus might think "if the cap fits, then wear it".
So where does the Nordstream pipeline fit into all this?
"In a world where Germany and Russia are friends and trading partners, there is no need for US military bases, no need for expensive US-made weapons and missile systems, and no need for NATO"