The 7 Most Sanctioned Countries in the World

Written by Patrick MacFarland
Published: March 14, 2024
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Countries are closer than ever before in a global world where everything is interconnected. We live in a society that is mixed together, no matter what any politician tells you. Sometimes, however, there are countries in this world of ours that may do something that upsets the majority of countries. For example, when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022,  many countries spoke out against Russia’s actions and condemned them. They issued sanctions, both political and economic, among others. 

Sanctions are punishments or penalties for violating the rule of law. Economic sanctions can hurt the bad actor in ways related to trade, tariffs, and commercial matters. Political sanctions can be effective by cutting off diplomatic ties with the bad actor. There are also other sanctions like sports sanctions, which ban a particular country from participating in sports events. Let’s take a look at the seven most sanctioned countries in the world.

7. Venezuela

One of the most sanctioned countries in the world is Venezuela with 747 sanctions.


Venezuela has had sanctions imposed on them by the major powers on the world stage since 2014. They were related because of the protests that happened, as well as in relation to the elections that took place in 2017 and 2018. The sanctions further increased in 2019 with the US targeting several industries including gold, mining, banking, food, and oil.

6. Myanmar

One of the most sanctioned countries in the world is Myanmar with 988 sanctions.


The world’s major powers, which include the European Union of the United States, have enacted strict sanctions on Myanmar. The reason why Myanmar has these economic and political sanctions imposed on them is because of the government’s treatment of the Burmese people. Currently, Myanmar is experiencing violence and political corruption, as well as repression. The sanctions include an embargo on weapons and equipment related to arms, as well as any goods that can be used by the military or police.

5. Belarus

One of the most sanctioned countries in the world is Belarus with 1,454 sanctions.

©Ryhor Bruyeu/iStock via Getty Images

The main reason why Belarus faces sanctions from the world’s major powers like the United States, the European Union, and others is their involvement in the Russo-Ukrainian War. They have decided to side with Russia and that is why the major global players have imposed these financial and economic sanctions, as well as immigration sanctions. There are also further sanctions because the Belarussian government has ruled with an iron fist for several decades. Their citizens are not free and the country is not democratic, committing scores of human rights abuses, among other matters.

4. North Korea

One of the most sanctioned countries in the world is North Korea with 2,171 sanctions.

© Huang

When it comes to sanctions imposed on North Korea, it all started in 2006 when North Korea decided to test out its first nuclear weapon. The major world powers on the world stage are worried that the proliferation of nuclear weapons by North Korea will ignite conflicts between North and South Korea, plunging many countries into war. The sanctions are economic and financial in nature, especially when it comes to trade, including luxury goods, rocket fuel, and other items. The country has had to resort to various ways of circumventing the sanctions including falsifying documents and undercover operations at sea to transfer goods.

3. Syria

The third-most sanctioned country in the world is Syria with 2,811 sanctions.


The sanctions against Syria are mainly economic and they are imposed by the major powers on the world stage including the United States, Canada, and the European Union. The sanctions are because of the actions of the Syrian government toward its citizens during the Syrian Civil War that started in 2011. The ones imposed by the US are more extreme because they have also imposed them on corporations doing business with the Syrian government. The sanctions imposed do not affect much of the humanitarian aid carried out by charities that is delivered to Syrian citizens.

2. Iran

The second-most sanctioned country in the world is Iran with 4,953 sanctions.


The history of sanctions when Iran is concerned started in November 1979 when radicals took over the American Embassy in Tehran and held those working there hostage. The sanctions were dropped in January 1981. The country has had a number of sanctions imposed over the decades. The most recent ones involve Iran’s noncompliance with the production of uranium and nuclear arms. The United States imposed economic sanctions in relation to Iran’s oil, gas, and petrochemical exports. There are also financial sanctions that target banks in Iran. The United Nations and other entities all over the world have followed suit with sanctions, too.

1. Russia

The most sanctioned country in the world is Russia with a whopping 18,772 sanctions.

©scaliger/ via Getty Images

The Russo-Ukrainian war started in 2014 when Russia overtook Crimea, which belonged to Ukraine. Since then other countries have issued sanctions against Russia. But it has been since 2022 when Russia invaded the whole of Ukraine that sanctions piled up. The European Union, the United States, Canada, and other powerful countries around the world stepped up to the plate and issued economic and political sanctions. Sports organizations also banned Russia from participating in sports events like the World Cup and the Olympic games. Because of the sanctions against Russia, the country has been in an economic downward spiral since then.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Artem Kontratiev/

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About the Author

Patrick Macfarland is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel, geography, and history. Patrick has been writing for more than 10 years. In the past, he has been a teacher and a political candidate. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from SDSU and a Master's Degree in European Union Studies from CIFE. From San Diego, California, Patrick loves to travel and try new recipes to cook.

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