No, it wasn’t because of any “provocation” from the EU, NATO or USA.
But it might actually be because of demographics.
Specifically, because Russia is effectively a failed nation which already has lost a generation of children from the fall of the Soviet Union due to lower birth rates. This, combined with worsening health and abilities of young Russian men, the Russian army now have a smaller pool of able-bodied men to conscript than countries much smaller than them.
This trend looks to continue; young Russian men unfit for service and fewer young men every year.
Now, which area might be able to supply the Russian army with acceptable young men? And with a worldview that Ukraine really just is an area in Russia, this thriving neighbour may have been too good to overlook.
Yes, this is one of the ways dictatorships work.
From Trent Telenko:
The Russian Army is suffering an irreversible collapse sequence because
1. Russia can’t keep it’s contract troops of any sort. They are “Peacing out” and telling everyone who can hear of draft age in Russia to run for the hills.
2. Because of #1, anyone who is combat trained will not be around to train/act as cadre for the next Russian conscript class.
3. Even if they were, Putin’s 22 year run as corruptocrat-in-charge has hollowed out the Russian Army’s reserve vehicles such that they will be no d–ned good & in too few numbers to equip the April 2022 Russian Army conscript class.
4. This means some time no later than June 2022 the Russian Army will have a general collapse in the field such that Ukraine will over run Crimea as well as Donbas.
5. Putin is a dead man walking. The coercive power of the Russian state has collapsed. He simply cannot make anything better because there is a war on after 22 years of stealing $125 billion from Russian state coffers. All Putin can do is make enemies by trying. Putin is costing his associates [too] much money and the power they want to keep. He is now a threat to their continued survival.
That observation brings us back to the West’s Russified intelligence agencies [see note below].
They are so bad they can’t even get the downside right.
Of course whoever replaces Putin will be worse.
The downside in the coming the interregnum between Putin and solidification of power by his successor isn’t loose nukes.
It is the possibility that a vial of something a lot worse than COVID-19 will make it out of the Russian Gangster State.
Note: What Telenko means by “the West’s Russified intelligence agencies” is the absolute failure of Western intelligence to actually see the weaknesses of Russia – of which there are plenty – all because it was easier to tell their governments what they wanted to hear.
See also James Dunnigan’s “Winning: Russian Recruiting Ruined“.