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West wrings hands over Belarus

Minsk's Communist-style crackdown leaves Western governments with few options.

In the “political prisoners as hostages” option, the main reality arguing against an eventual reconciliation with the EU is that the European officials have seen this movie before and say that they won’t be taken for suckers again.

“There can be no business-as-usual between the European Union and Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenko, after what has happened since the presidential election in Belarus,” wrote the foreign ministers of Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany in a New York Times op-ed piece.

“Continued positive engagement with Mr. Lukashenko at the moment seems to be a waste of time and money. He has made his choice — and it is a choice against everything the European Union stands for,” they wrote.

But what can they do? Aside from reinstated visa bans for top Belarus officials, including Lukashenko, and possibly other sanctions, Western diplomats admit in private that they possess few instruments of leverage over the Belarus strongman. EU officials will meet for an extraordinary meeting on the Belarus situation in Brussels on Jan. 12.