The main causes of World War I were ..
France, they were to remain - at the very least - benevolently neutral. This alliance, unlike others, endured until war in 1914. It was this clause that Austria-Hungary invoked in calling Germany to her aid against Russian support for Serbia (who in turn was protected by treaty with Russia). Two years after Germany and Austria-Hungary concluded their agreement, Italy was brought into the fold with the signing of the in 1881. Under the provisions of this treaty, Germany and Austria-Hungary promised to assist Italy if she were attacked by France, and vice versa: Italy was bound to lend aid to Germany or Austria-Hungary if France declared war against either. Additionally, should any signatory find itself at war with two powers (or more), the other two were to provide military assistance. Finally, should any of the three determine to launch a 'preventative' war (a euphemism if ever there was one), the others would remain neutral. One of the chief aims of the Triple Alliance was to prevent Italy from declaring war against Austria-Hungary, towards whom the Italians were in dispute over territorial matters. In the event the Triple Alliance was essentially meaningless, for Italy subsequently negotiated a secret treaty with France, under which Italy would remain neutral should Germany attack France - which in the event transpired. In 1914 Italy declared that Germany's war against France was an 'aggressive' one and so . A year later, in 1915, Italy did , as an ally of Britain, France and Russia. Austria-Hungary signed an alliance with Romania in 1883, negotiated by Germany, although in the event Romania - after starting World War One as a neutral - eventually ; as such Austria-Hungary's treaty with Romania was of no actual significance. Potentially of greater importance - although it was allowed to lapse three years after its signature - Bismarck, in 1887, agreed to a so-called with Russia. This document stated that both powers would remain neutral if either were involved in a war with a third (be it offensive or defensive). However, should that third power transpire to be France, Russia would not be obliged to provide assistance to Germany (as was the case of Germany if Russia found itself at war with Austria-Hungary). Bismarck's intention was to avoid the possibility of a two-front war against both France and Russia. A decidedly tangled mesh of alliances; but the Russian Tsar, , allowed the Reinsurance Treaty to lapse in 1890 (the same year the new German Kaiser, , brought about the dismissal of his veteran Chancellor, Bismarck). The year after the Reinsurance Treaty lapsed Russia allied itself with France. Both powers agreed to consult with the other should either find itself at war with any other nation, or if indeed the stability of Europe was threatened. This rather loosely worded agreement was solidified in 1892 with the , aimed specifically at counteracting the potential threat posed by the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. In short, should France or Russia be attacked by one of the Triple Alliance signatories - or even should a Triple Alliance power mobilise against either (where to mobilise meant simply placing a nation on a war footing preparatory to the declaration of hostilities), the other power would provide military assistance. Meanwhile, Britain was awaking to the emergence of Germany as a great European power - and a colonial power at that. Kaiser Wilhelm's successor, Wilhelm II, proved far more ambitious in establishing "a place in the sun" for Germany. With the effective dismissal of Bismarck the new Kaiser was determined to establish Germany as a great colonial power in the pacific and, most notably, in Africa. Wilhelm, encouraged by naval minister , embarked upon a massive shipbuilding exercise intended to produce a naval fleet the equal of Britain's, unarguably by far and away the world's largest. Britain, at that time the greatest power of all, took note. In the early years of the twentieth century, in 1902, she agreed a , aimed squarely at limiting German colonial gains in the east. She also responded by commissioning a build-up in her own naval strength, determined to outstrip Germany. In this she succeeded, building in just 14 months - a record - the enormous battleship, completed in December 1906. By the time war was declared in 1914 Germany could muster 29 battleships, Britain 49. Despite her success in the naval race, Germany's ambitions succeeded at the very least in pulling Britain into the European alliance system - and, it has been argued, brought war that much closer. Two years later Britain signed the with France. This 1904 agreement finally resolved numerous leftover colonial squabbles. More significantly, although it did not commit either to the other's military aid in time of war, it did offer closer diplomatic co-operation generally. Three years on, in 1907, Russia formed what became known as the Triple Entente (which lasted until World War One) by signing an agreement with Britain, the . Together the two agreements formed the three-fold alliance that lasted and effectively bound each to the other right up till the outbreak of world war just seven years later. Again, although the two Entente agreements were not militarily binding in any way, they did place a "moral obligation" upon the signatories to aid each other in time of war. It was chiefly this moral obligation that drew Britain into the war in defence of France, although the British pretext was actually the terms of the largely forgotten that committed the British to defend Belgian neutrality (discarded by the Germans as in 1914, when they asked Britain to ignore it). In 1912 Britain and France did however conclude a military agreement, the Anglo-French Naval Convention, which promised British protection of France's coastline from German naval attack, and French defence of the Suez Canal. Such were the alliances between the major continental players. There were other, smaller alliances too - such as Russia's pledge to protect Serbia, and Britain's agreement to defend Belgian neutrality - and each served its part in drawing each nation into the coming great war. In the interim however, there were a number of 'minor' conflicts that helped to stir emotions in the years immediately preceding 1914, and which gave certain nations more stake than others in entering the world war. Ever since Russia declined Japan's offer in 1903 for each to recognise the other's interests in Manchuria and Korea, trouble was looming. The Japanese launched a successful attack upon Russian warships in Korea, at Inchon, and in Port Arthur, China. This was followed by a land invasion of both disputed territories of Korea and Manchuria in 1904.