Although there were many underlying reasons for the European nations to break out in war, the early days of the fighting between Serbia and Austria caused the expansion of the war, along with the alliances which failed to remain peace and actually contributed to the war. Also, the possibility of remaining neutral and prepared is always another alternative, rather than forming allies that may require the nation to enter a war. A war between Serbia and Austria caused 7 nations to enter the fighting, justified by the reason of supporting alliances previously formed and underlying conflicts.
Initially, World War I was spurred by the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand of Austria on June 28th of 1914 by a terrorist recruited by Serbia. When Austria seized the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, Russia and the independent state of Serbia became infuriated and retaliated with the murder of Ferdinand and his wife. On July 23rd the Austrian Government declared war against Serbia. Germany declared war against Russia, an ally of Serbia, on August 1st, then declares war on France, an ally of Russia, and begins invading through neutral Berlin. On August 4th Great Britain, declared war against Germany due to their brutality of the invasion of neutral Berlin, along with remain true to their alliance with France.
Secret alliances that were formed by many of the European nations, which bounded them to one another, failed to maintain the peace and thus contributed to the war. In 1879 Germany had entered into a defensive alliance with Austria-Hungary, known as the ‘Dual Alliance’ against Russia and France. Then, in 1882, Italy joined the Dual alliance, forming the Triple Alliance. Italy negotiated with France, forming a secret treaty that decided Italy would remain neutral if Germany attacked France. Russia entered into a defensive alliance with France in 1890, then France entered into a defensive alliance with England in 1904 which is known as the ‘Entente Cordiale.’ In 1907 Russia joined the ‘Entente Cordiale’, which brought about the Triple Entente, becoming the enemies of the Triple Alliance. By the end of all of the formations of alliances two powers emerged, the Allies, which consisted of Great Britain, France, Serbia, Russia, and Belgium, and the Central Powers which was Germany, Austria-Hungary, and then later joined by Bulgaria and Turkey. These alliances did not maintain the peace in the least bit because if a war were to break out, it would involve all of the greater powers of Europe since the members of each group would feel the only right thing to do would be to support one another during the war. The alliances themselves actually contributed to the war because they caused more and more nations to enter the war as it progressed. The alliances formed ties between the nations that required them to support a country during a time of need, which in this case was war.
The possibility of remaining neutral but prepared is always an option in time of war, although it may not work out that way. Several countries remained neutral, such as America, until the Germans declared unrestricted submarine warfare, causing the need to join the war. The Netherlands also remained neutral, along with the Dutch who opened their doors for Belgian refugees. Also, the Dutch sent food and clothes to the remaining Belgians as far as the Germans allowed them to. Those countries remained neutral, however they were not necessarily prepared for war. Remaining neutral yet prepared is a hard strategy to maintain. Word Reference defines neutrality as the state of being neutral, especially as regards noninvolvement in wars and disputes, not taking sides, and not joining alliances. This may be the best option to avoid war, but being prepared may threaten the nation’s neutrality. A nation that is prepared with an operating army and fully armed and ready for war may seem more of a threat than a friend.