Can the U.S. impose sanctions against any country at any time or are they bound by some kind of rule? I was thinking about the sanctions the U.S. placed against China, and then I was reading some news that Russia and China were carrying military operations near Alaska and I was wondering if it was a good enough reason to impose more sanctions against China, then I also asked myself more generally if they even need an excuse or they can just decide to impose sanctions against any country at any time.
Jurisdictions become the target of U.S. sanctions by means of executive orders signed by the President of the United States (“the President”). Persons can become the target of U.S. sanctions by being named in executive orders or by OFAC’s exercise of authority delegated by the President (where the President provides criteria for imposing sanctions), in consultation with the U.S. State Department and sometimes other agencies (such as the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”)). OFAC also has primary responsibility for licensing transactions that would otherwise be prohibited by U.S. sanctions. Additionally, OFAC has the power to investigate and impose civil monetary penalties against persons (including non-U.S. persons) that violate U.S. sanctions laws and regulations.
I googled sanctions laws, but it seems that those aren't laws that dictate how and when sanctions can be emitted but rather how people and entities are supposed to respect U.S. sanctions against other countries.