Seven UN members and the EU recognise the Syrian National Council as the legitimate government/authority/interlocator of Syria. Around 50 states recognise the Guaidó interim presidency in Venezuela. Neither have operational control. There are probably other (historical or present) cases where a government-in-exile is recognised as the proper government by foreign states. But does international law allow for such a recognition?
I can see how such a construct could lead to the justification of military interventions that would normally be in violation of international law:
- In a crisis in the Republic of Petrosocialism, the opposition unifies around Mr. Saviour, who proclaims himself President (and declares the country is now called the Republic of Petrocapitalism)
- The neighbouring Empire has its interests more aligned with Mr. Saviour than with the leadership of the Republic of Petrosocialism, and recognises Mr. Saviour as the legitimate government.
- Mr. Saviour has no operational control, but asks the Empire to please "provide military assistance" for the "liberation" of the Republic of Petrocapitalism
- The Empire happily complies, and its overwhelming military power allows Mr. Saviour to establish operational control
- The allies of the Republic of Petrosocialism call out that this is a flagrant violation of international law, while the Empire and its allies declare that since the legitimate government of the Republic of Petrocapitalism asked for assistance, it is legal to provide this
The key difference in interpretation of the legality of the military intervention lies in what government is recognised. Does international law allow for states to recognise a government of a foreign country, when that government has not established operational control?