Imperialism affected World War I in several ways, such as shaping political alliances between nations engaged in the war and by diverting attention away from domestic issues and towards economic improvement achieved by nations gaining control of African lands. Britain, the United States, Russia and Germany acted as key players by engaging in imperialism during World War I. They sought to gain critical resources and establish an international presence through imperialism, which also allowed them to gain political control.
Imperialism began well before the start of World War I, when Britain held colonies in the U.S. and Spain established colonies in South America. Both nations lost control over their overseas acquisitions, however. The loss of territory resulted in a loss of resources and materials, and restricted trade options for affected nations. Consequently, in need of new raw goods and supplies, European countries looked for places to extend economic growth closer to home. The African continent proved most lucrative; unclaimed lands held promise for economic opportunities, but invited competition for political dominance as well. Britain and Russia for instance, foes in World War I, used imperialist tactics in attempts to grab large tracts of land and in turn gain control over key land areas in the continent. In addition to securing land for themselves, Britain and Russia attempted to slow the expansion of the other by gathering support from other countries. Britain attempted to slow Russian dominance of the eastern Mediterranean by forming an alliance with Greece, while Russia appealed to satellite countries bordering Greece to gain support.