“A moron or a scoundrel? Find out”
“I’m employing the well-paid specialists who … can get proof of anything… “
A & B Strugatsky
“We don’t need those who are clever, we need those who are loyal”
A & B Strugatsky
The Treaty of Lubeck was the last major diplomatic coup of Prince Vasily Golitsyn. In 1715 he died at the age of 72. This death created a huge problem. As a head of the Collegium of the Foreign Affairs he was also Chancellor of the Russian Empire  and his vice-Chancellor and now successor was Gavriil Golovkin, a person of extremely mediocre mental capacities and even lesser competence in anything but the court intrigues appointed to this position because of the family relations (was linked to Naryshkin family) and personal loyalty to Peter . He could do what he was told and with a passage of years learned some routine but it was just that and nothing more except that with an elevation into the top position of the imperial administration he, rather unfortunately, became ambitious well beyond his abilities and imagined himself to be a true driving force of the Russian foreign policy.
On the top of everything else, he was in a permanent conflict with, now promoted to vice-Chancelor, Peter Shafirov,
and with another leading figure of the Russian diplomacy (and not only), Peter Tolstoy, who in 1714 had been made a senator.
Small wonder that immediately after promotion Golovkin started looking for a competent backup and found it in a person of Andrew Osterman, who was already became noticed after successful implementation of some diplomatic missions. Osterman was a really interesting and dangerous figure. On one hand, unlike many of his colleagues, he was a workaholic with a good memory for the details which allowed him to be very useful to his boss and projected (not without a reason) image of a very competent person. However, this had been balanced by an extremely mediocre (except in the area of intrigues) brain incapable of generating any original (and productive) ideas  and extremely high self-assessment.
The first issue which Golovkin was facing as a Chancellor had been Pragmatic Sanction of the Emperor Charles VI who wanted Russia to join the list of its guarantors. So far Peter’s (and Golitsyn’s) position was that Russia can make a non-comital agreement providing in exchange for acknowledgement of Peter’s imperial title and certain provisions regarding Prussia, Mecklenburg and the Polish succession. Golovkin, being too lazy and too incompetent, trusted his protege, Osterman, with writing a detailed opinion on the subject hinting that a closer alliance with the Hapsburgs could be beneficial for Russia .
“Caesar is able, most probably, to keep all other powers from attacking Russia... And Russia, in addition to the general benefit described above, there will also be this particulation that Caesar, … as the Chief Justice of the Empire will be helpful in Mecklenburg’s affairs. There is little danger from such an alliance, because there will be no war from France for such an alliance, but moreover, seeing Russia in good harmony with Caesar, France will be looking for Russian friendship even more. England in a long or short time has to return from its close obligations with France on its natural interests to Caesar of Rome. The King of Prussia will be forced to hold the Russian friendship. Sweden wants this alliance with Caesar itself. Poland is not only be kept from any nasty things, but … is going to be in a full agreement with Russia.” 
A future alliance was seen along the following lines :
- Friendship and harmony of monarchs and their heirs;
- An alliance agreement is concluded for 30 years, the parties are not going to attack anyone, but help each other in case of aggression against one of the parties;
- When attacking one of the parties, an ally tries to solve the matter by peace within 4 months, and if this fails, exposes 15-20,000 people (1/3 of whom is cavalry). The body can be increased to 30,000 people if desired;
- Assistance is provided until the end of the war; troops are held with the money of the one who sent them and have their own artillery: the party to whom assistance is provided provides troops with food, fodder and apartments
To say that Peter was not quite happy with these proposal would be an understatement and when he found out that Golovkin (or rather Osterman by his order) had preliminary discussion with the imperial ambassador he was definitely opposite to happy
because not only the Chancellor was trying to conduct a foreign policy over his head but that policy was going contrary to his current one. It would link Russia to Hapsburgs’ European troubles including a very likely war against the Ottomans with whom Russia just made a profitable peace, it would put Russia under obligation not to attack anyone for at least 30 years (not that Peter presently had any definite plans as of now, but nonetheless, and does “anyone” also include someone in Asia? ). Presently, it did not look like Russia needed any military help from Austria so why would it want to provide a military help to it at its own expense?
Osterman’s discussion regarding the Emperor’s potential usefulness looked, in Peter’s opinion, humiliating for Russia: Sweden and Prussia already had been Russian allies and if Prussia was planning any surprises in the future (which would be extremely unlikely after the BFW), it was already demonstrated how this is going to end. Sweden, as far as Peter knew, just wanted normal relations with the HRE without any binding alliances. The Mecklenburg’s imperial execution was a silly escapade of Charles VI because nobody was going to enforce it and the Duke’s subjects already understood all wrongfulness of their ways. Poland as a source of the “nasty things”? Did you fell from the Moon? Britain may ally itself with whoever it wants: it is going to remain the greatest customer of the Russian and Swedish goods and surely does not look for a war with any member if the Baltic Mafia. France is not going to be at war with Russia with or without Austrian alliance simply because it is too far away. So the whole schema assumes that the Russian Empire is somehow inferior militarily and politically and can’t survive without Austrian protection… Which part of his anatomy was Golovking using for thinking????? 
Of course, Golovkin immediately passed the buck blaming everything on his subordinate. Peter recommended Osterman to the attention of Preobrazensky Prikaz recently renamed, to sound “civilized”, into Secret Chancellery and after producing confession in all imaginable sins  Osterman was …. made a governor of Orenburg gubernia  . Which left Peter with a need to figure out what to do with Golovkin: unlike outsider Osterman, he was a member of the inner circle and a proven loyalist and doing something too drastic to him over a single (if a very serious) lapse would be excessive. In this specific case a simple solution would be, instead of removing person from the chair, remove the chair from under him. Ukaz on that subject was saying:
“It came to our attention that the present position of the Chancellor makes Collegium of the Foreign Affairs a supreme one over all other collegiums but the Chancellor, being too busy with the foreign affairs, is neglecting his duties of a general oversight of those collegiums. To remedy the problem, we remove Collegium of the Foreign Affairs from the Chancellor’s jurisdiction leaving to him oversight of all collegiums dealing with the domestic affairs and presidency of the Senate. Collegium of the Foreign Affairs, Military Collegium and Admiralty Collegium from now on are being responsible directly to the Emperor. “
All these developments left Peter with the obvious question: who should be a new head of the Russian foreign policy?
Based upon the seniority (position of vice-chancellor) and diplomatic experience the first candidate had to be Shafirov but there were couple big “but’s”:
1. Peter made him a baron in 1710 but he could not provide him with an aristocratic pedigree, which was important for the head of the Foreign Ministry: regardless his position of the vice-chancellor, the foreign ambassadors did not consider him as their socially equal. Not that Peter himself was fully indifferent to these issues. Shafirov was going to remain second-in-command.
2. As a member of the Menshikov clique he was known as one of the biggest swindlers in Russia and by that time Peter began to get tired of the habits of his favorite and of his never-ending attempts to grab more power than Peter saw fit. Making his client a head of the Russian diplomacy could be considered as Menshikov’s further promotion and make him even less controllable.
Peter Tolstoy had a reasonably aristocratic pedigree (even if not from the top level), was an experienced diplomat, had been demonstrably intelligent and lacked the unnecessary scruples.
1. He also was too closely associated with Menshikov and his “affairs”
2. Most of his diplomatic experience was with the Ottomans and for the Western affairs he may not be subtle enough.
3. Peter had different plans for him. “Prince-Caesar” Fyodor Romodanovsky was in his seventies and his health was noticeably failing and Tolstoy looked as a good replacement for what was now called Secret Chancellory. Of course, this appointment may not happen immediately but Tolstoy understood its importance (and related power) and was willing to wait.
So the suitable choice was Prince Vasily Lukich Dolgoruki. Reasonably young (in his forties), well-educated, widely travelled (France, Poland, Denmark), already with a considerable diplomatic experience (last appointment - ambassador in Denmark), private councilor and a member of the top Russian aristocracy.
For the domestic purposes made sense in maintaining a balance between the two top aristocratic families, Golitsyns and Dolgoruki .
Later, the Spanish ambassador in Russia, James Francis (Jacobo Francisco) Fitz-James Stuart, 2nd Duke of Berwick, 2nd Duke of Liria and Xérica, will describe him as following:
“He spoke many languages very well and it was pleasant to spend time talking to him, but together with this he loved bribes very much, had neither honor nor conscience and was able to do anything out of self-interest.
” (well, except for the linguistic skills and ability to maintain a pleasant conversation, this could be said about most of Peter’s entourage
However, he understood well Peter’s political system and stuck to it.
 This was one of the byproducts of Peter’s rather superficial copying of the Swedish administrative structure. Formally
, Chancellor was a highest administrative position of the Russian Empire, which was supposed to mean a head of all branches of the civic administration but in its practical application meant predominant concentration upon the foreign affairs. Which would make position of a President of the Collegium of the Foreign Affairs meaningless so, to solve this problem, Peter combined two positions instead of making Chancellor something of a Prime Minister responsible for oversight of all collegiums.
 Following the old wisdom “trust but control”, Peter wanted a loyalist as Golitsyn’s deputy. Initially, the purpose was to make sure that Prince Vasily really abandoned his old loyalties and then it would be simply awkward to remove Golovkin from his position without an obvious fault: a person who does nothing rarely makes mistakes.
 In OTL he grasped an idea of the Austrian alliance and stuck to it disregarding all obvious problems and disadvantages of this affiliations. On the domestic issues he was seemingly incapable of producing anything beyond the generalities and navigated his way by “getting sick” during each and every domestic crisis. To be fair, he was seemingly instrumental in a better organization of the Russian navy and was not corrupt.
 Benefit for Russia were a vague notion but, taking into an account that at this time a title of the count or prince was usually
(not always, Sheremetev already was the Russian
count) received from the HRE on Peter’s application, he could expect some personal benefits.
 From Osterman’s real document (slightly modified to fit this TL)
 OTL Alliance of Vienna, 1726
 The “Great naval zagib”, which followed is not reproduced by two reasons: (a) it can’t be adequately translated into English and (b) even if such a translation was possible, I have no desire to be banned for publishing unbelievably rude obscenities. Let’s just put it this way: “Peter demonstrated extreme irritation with his usual eloquence.” This would be fitting for his imperial dignity.
 Prince Romodanovsky had true professionals on his employ.
 The capable people had been too rare to be executed just for the bad judgement.
 Michael Golitsyn, promoted to the fieldmarshal after the BFW, was considered the second top figure in the army after Sheremetev and his potential successor as a top military commander in the case of war and as a President of the Military Collegium (this was a predominantly administrative position in which he may or may not be interested).