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Countries sanctioned by the United States and why

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It’s not a good idea to get on America’s bad side. As the richest country in the world, the United States also claims the most powerful military in the world. But military might is nothing compared to economic and economic impact. trade sanctions of the United States can bring.

Economic sanctions are a way for big governments to express their disapproval of each other. Although wars are costly, both economically and politically, economic sanctions tend to be somewhat less tangible, at least for the country imposing them. For the sanctioned country, the results can be enormous and lasting.

Key takeaways

  • The United States tends to sanction countries that violate human rights or support terrorism.
  • The United States can sanction an entire nation or specific individuals or entities within a nation.
  • The countries with the longest-standing sanctions against them are Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria.
  • In February 2022, US President Joe Biden announced economic and trade sanctions against Russia due to Russian military aggression against Ukraine.

Why the United States is imposing sanctions

What should a country do to attract the ire of the United States? The United States overwhelmingly sanctions countries that support terrorism or commit human rights violations against their own people or others.

The United States also imposes sanctions on countries that threaten its interests, for example through unfair trade practices. Such sanctions aim to deter bad behavior through economic sanctions.

Countries sanctioned by the United States

As of June 2023, active U.S. sanctions programs cover the following countries and regions, or companies and individuals within the listed countries:

  • Afghanistan
  • The Balkans
  • Belarus
  • Burma
  • Central African Republic
  • China
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Hong Kong
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Mali
  • Nicaragua
  • North Korea
  • Russia
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • South Sudan
  • Syria
  • Ukraine
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe

Russian sanctions

On February 22, 2022, US President Joe Biden announced sanctions against Russia in response to Russian military aggression against Ukraine. This aggression included the advance of Russian troops into two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.

Initially, the sanctions blocked two Russian state-owned financial institutions, Vnesheconombank and Promsvyazbank, and their subsidiaries, which finance the Russian military.

However, on February 24, 2022, the sanctions were extended to other Russian financial institutions, including the two largest banks, Sberbank and VTB Bank. This action blocked their access to the American financial system.

The sanctions also prohibit U.S. companies and individuals from purchasing new and existing Russian products. sovereign debt on the secondary market. Russian elites and their families have been financially targeted. Export controls were established to block Russia’s importation of technological goods.

Here are details on four of the oldest sanctioned nations.


One of the oldest and best-known U.S. sanctions programs involves one of its southern neighbors, Cuba. In February 1959, Fidel Castro became Prime Minister of Cuba, overthrowing a post-revolutionary Cuban government favored by the United States. Ironically, Batista’s previous regime was defeated in part because of a US-imposed arms policy. embargo.

The United States has implemented trade embargoes since Castro took power. They are intended to punish those who obstruct the democratic regime.

Although Americans are generally not permitted to trade with Cuba or travel to Cuba as tourists, its geographic proximity and the United States’ large Cuban-American population have allowed a number of exemptions exist for various travel purposes.

Some of these purposes include official U.S. government business, humanitarian work, journalistic activities, and visiting relatives.

It is prohibited to carry out activities in the private sector. Cuba free trade zones might seem attractive to American companies, but what are the consequences of capitalizing on opportunities? Not really.


Following the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Western-friendly Shah of Iran was deposed in favor of a theocratic government. The Iranian hostage crisis and other subsequent events prompted the United States to impose a trade embargo on the Middle Eastern country.

Sanctions persist in the face of increasingly tense political relations, sponsorship of terrorism and debates on uranium enrichment. Iranian economic sanctions remain a hotly debated topic.

North Korea

North Korea is undoubtedly the country most brutally affected by American economic sanctions. Fighting between North Korea and the United States began in the 1950s with the United States’ entry into the Korean War, a move intended to counter the Soviet Union’s support for a unified communist Korea.

Technically, North and South Korea are still at war – although under a ceasefire since 1953 – and the United States maintains strict trade restrictions on the country. In 2018, with tensions easing, South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed the Panmunjom Declaration agreeing to greater cooperation between the two nations.

The United States has imposed sanctions on North Korea since the Korean War in an effort to establish trade and financial embargoes. THE United Nations (UN) also sanctioned the nation.


As one of the countries that former UN Ambassador John Bolton called “beyond the axis of evil,” Syria has a controversial relationship with the United States due to its position. sponsor of terrorism.

As a result, the United States imposed strong trade restrictions on the country, banning significant exports and financial services to individuals or organizations linked to terrorism. The country’s measures in terms of standard of living versus quality of life may sound similar, but the reality is a matter of quality versus quantity.

Sanctions imposed against a country’s political regime can have devastating effects on the lives of its people.

Other economic sanctions

Not all U.S. economic sanctions target entire countries. Some are aimed at specific people or entities. Typically, these sanctions focus on political groups or organizations that promote violence or social unrest. They may also target government or military officials.

For example, under the Global Magnitsky Act, since December 2017, the United States has imposed targeted visa restrictions and financial sanctions on “perpetrators of atrocities” in Burma (Myanmar).

Additional sanctions were imposed in 2019 against Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy General Soe Win.

And in March 2023, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an alert reminding Americans to comply with jet fuel sanctions imposed on the Burmese military regime. The military overthrew the duly elected civilian government in February 2021 and began carrying out airstrikes against the Burmese population at schools, places of worship and cultural events.

THE US Treasury maintains a public list of specific individuals and organizations with whom U.S. persons and organizations are prohibited from doing business.

What is an American sanction?

It is a sanction imposed by the U.S. government to attempt to change the behavior of a country, group or individual that goes against U.S. interests, including its commitment to supporting human rights and put an end to terrorism.

Can we put an end to sanctions?

Yes, they can. For example, on November 18, 2021, President Biden ended sanctions imposed on Burundians due to their positive behavior towards members of the Burundian government.

What are some examples of sanctions?

Among the different types of US sanctions are trade restrictions, visa restrictions, arms embargoes and travel bans.

The essential

Military action is not the only option for countries experiencing political conflict. Instead, economic sanctions offer the United States an immediate alternative to cracking down on rogue countries without putting troops on the ground and risking lives.

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