The dilemma of Lukashenko’s current position for the West is that he has chosen sides.
When Lukashenko was bouncing back and forth between currying favor in the West, currying favor in Moscow, playing one against the other, one could have argued that limited pressure could achieve limited ends. For example, a certain amount of economic sanctions pressure, a certain amount of diplomatic pressure, naming and shaming was able to get prisoners, political prisoners, released.
At this point, having signed up essentially fully for Vladimir Putin’s protection and abandoned any pretense of good relations with the West, it’s hard to see how that kind of leverage is likely to be successful.
Now, that said, give it a little bit of time, because I don’t think Putin and Lukashenko view one another as reliable partners. They have had 20 years to work through that relationship, and they have never reached that point. So, it is likely that, in a few years, when there’s a falling out, and there’s a reason for Lukashenko to change course again, he will seek to curry favor in the West by releasing these political prisoners, and including perhaps Protasevich, who’s got this 12-year sentence hanging over his head.
So there’s there’s good reason for the West to impose those sanctions as leverage, but I would not expect quick success.