On the eve of the First World War, Italy and Romania were in a similar position: they were Parties in a defensive alliance with Austria-Hungary; they had territorial disputes and rivalries with both belligerent sides; they were militarily unprepared. In 1914, they decided to remain neutral. Why did they subsequently enter the war? Why did Italy intervene in May 1915, while Romania decided to wait until August 1916? What balance of factors influenced these choices and the timing of this fundamental policy change? This paper focuses on the understudied topic of war diffusion and develops a comparative analysis of the role of alliance bonds, territorial disputes and prior rivalries in Italy and Romania’s decision to join the war. The paper maintains that diffusion effects significantly influenced the decision-making process in both countries; and, that prior rivalries and status concerns were key to Italian and Romanian foreign policy during WWI.
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