When dealing with de facto states, their reliance on a patron is taken as proof that they would not be viable states anyway; and that the sole purpose of their existence is because they are needed as pawns in the regional power games of larger states. A focus on agency allows us to ask how and how far these unrecognized entities have been able to act on and in the international system. How much subjective freedom of action is exercised, and how has this been deployed during negotiation? Agents’ role positions, which either empower or constrain their choices, may describe de facto states’ relationships with their external supporters. Despite their limited capacity, de facto states do display some agency, and they are sometimes not remarkably different from other small states.