Economic sanctions are becoming increasingly prominent on the list of foreign policy tools. However, the role of sanctions in current international relations goes beyond purely technical means of forcing a given state to comply with the will of other countries. Sanctions are becoming an indicator of a changing power balance between states, their sovereignty, and the hierarchy of international relations that they are part of.
Sanctions are hardly a recent phenomenon. In the 20th century alone, there were 174 cases of sanctions used by major powers and international organizations.
Transformations are taking place in international relations that are difficult to describe solely in terms of balance of power or international norms. A new mix of independent variables has arisen. Being only one of many tools used in the context of foreign policy, sanctions, however, provide interesting information about its transformations. This is especially true of the most recent episodes, including sanctions against North Korea, Iran, Russia, and sanctions against China, which have not yet been introduced, but are being debated behind closed doors. Modern sanctions policies highlight several important trends.