During the 19th century, fierce competition between the major colonial powers arose. There was a scramble to colonize the lands of Asia and Africa. Nations with the greatest colonies had the greatest influence and prestige on the world stage, along with the greatest opportunity for wealth by abusing the resources of conquered territories. Soon, Germany and Britain ignored the Monroe Doctrine and begins to colonize the Americas. Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, Venezuela, Colombia, and Central America fell to Britain. While Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Brazil annexed to Germany. There were frequent disputes between the powers over control of territory. More often that not the disputes were settled by treaty and negotiation, hence the straight lines often visible on the borders of colonies. A great aid at the negotiation table was often a strong economy and military to intimidate the opposition. Hence the greater powers were able to secure for themselves huge tracts of land. Every power wanted to claim the right to be the greatest power, but near the end of the 19th century Great Britain was undisputed in its dominance, with over a quarter of the world living under the Union Jack. Feverous weapons development in the military meant that every country had the terminal fear of being outclassed by superior weaponry. In order to be secure in their power, the colonial powers formed alliances to protect themselves from aggressors. Great Britain, France and Russia formed the Triple Entente. Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire formed the Triple Alliance. Each saw the other as the enemy. However, they believed that the formation of huge alliances would negate the possibility of war between major powers. USA joined neither alliance and was an isolationist nation.
At the dawn of the 20th century, the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente faced each other. Their purpose was to halt the start of any war, since it was supposed that no country would be mad enough to go up against the combined strength of an entire alliance. Even so, huge weapons development meant that tensions rose, especially since the industrial revolution permitted the production of weapons on a titanic scale, never seen before. The first example of how dangerous the situation really was occurred in 1902. Brazil annexed a large chunk of Patagonia, a German colony, which it had conquered in the fierce Patagonian War 1876-1882. Brazil believed that as the sole unconquered nation in South America, it was the rightful leader of a Grand Columbia. The Germans fiercely fought back against the Brazilians and pushed them out, back into Brazil. The world's attention was only caught when Germany blockaded Brazilian ports. Shipments of highly valuable rubber, which were vital to the British economy, were stranded in ports. Britain's valuable rubber industry was threatened. It sent an ultimatum to Germany, "Stop the blockade or face the wrath of the Royal Navy". Germany withdrew the blockade and averted a possible war, along that South America became part of Britain. Tensions rose again during the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. Japan annihilated an entire Russian battle fleet. This was the first time a European colony ever suffered such a drastic defeat at the hands of "lesser" nation. Russia narrowly won the war after it transferred its Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific and barely defeated the Japanese fleet at the battle of Port Arthur. The Russian Fleet then attempted to blockade the Japanese home islands, during which time the Russian army managed to secure a decisive victory over the Japanese army in Manchuria. A treaty was signed, giving Russia dominion of Manchuria, but allowing the Japanese control of Korea. During the time that the Russian Atlantic Fleet was away, Russia had entitled it's protection to it's two closest allies Great Britain and France. Germany saw that the Russian fleet was absent and sailed dangerously close to Russian territorial waters. A minor naval engagement took place between a British force and a German force. In all over 300 Germans were believed to be killed and 120 British in the Battle of Memel. Further hostilities were just barely avoided through diplomatic action. However, war did break out in the end. It was sparked by the assassination of Czar Nicholas II of Russia in 1908 by a group of communists led by Vladamir Lenin. This left the czar's oldest daughter Czarina Olga Nikolaevna in charge of the imperial throne. Since she was only 16 years old, she relinquished many of her powers to the Russian Parliament, the Duma, on the advice of her father's former advisers. Her mother scorned her for her actions and left for Great Britain with her other three daughters. Russia declared war on Germany, as the leader behind the assassination was German. Austria-Hungary. The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia. Great Britain and France declared war on the Triple Entente. The Grand War had begun.