PROVIDENIYA, RUSSIA — An annual outdoor concert and celebration here was mistaken by Alaskan authorities as a military operation, causing Gov. Sarah Palin to alert the Department of Homeland Security to “a well-organized collection of giant wooden warriors fiercely practicing formation changes and fighting.”
An investigation into the threat found that the imposing figures and coordinated movements were part of a local annual festival honoring The Nutcracker, which uses large wooden masks — some as tall as 15 feet — during a twohour performance and a weeklong carnival in the coastal town of Provideniya.
Palin defended the false alarm, stating that Russia’s recent acts of aggression toward its neighbors justify suspicion of the well-armed nation.
“When it comes to defending America, I believe we must err on the side of caution,” Palin said after the threat was investigated. “I’d rather fight those wooden warriors over there than have to fight ‘em over here.”
Russian authorities said the incident was another example of America overstepping its boundaries and unnecessarily threatening other nations. The dispute temporarily interrupted the annual Provideniya Nutcracker Festival, which Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said amounted to an “insulting breech of international etiquette” by the Americans.
“When we meet in Provideniya each year to celebrate Tchaikovsky’s wonderful ballet, we expect America to shut its big fat mouth for at least one day so we may enjoy the piece,” Putin said by phone after the mistake was reported by KTUU TV in Alaska. “We demand an apology from your stupid, stupid people.”
During an interview at her Wasilla home, Palin dismissed Russia’s anger over the mistake and, in a surprising turn, painted the former Communist nation as soft.
“If you ask me, that nutcracker stuff isn’t reflective of a powerful nation that deserves to be part of or considered by our NATO allies,” said Palin, who served a Moose face casserole and Cokes to her reporter guests. “What is The Nutcracker? A ballet? The only people who go to ballets are elitists and queers.”
Department of Homeland Security officials refused to comment on the incident specifically, only confirming that there was indeed a perceived threat involving Western Europe that turned out to be false. One high-ranking member of the department, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was made aware of a possible threat during the show’s rehearsals and raised the terrorist alert level from yellow to orange during the regular performance just to be safe.
“I mean, if she was right about this and Russia had a new huge army, that would be great for her I’m sure,” the official said. “But if she’s over there watching The Nutcracker through binoculars — as our intelligence suggests — then damn. God damn."
Alaskan authorities have quietly expressed concern over Palin’s increased interest in the state’s international neighbors. One rumor out of Fairbanks suggests that Palin last week sent state troopers to the Canadian border just to kick a group of Canadian Mounties out of a local Denny’s restaurant. The Russian ballet incident was reportedly brought on by hours of surveillance by Palin herself.
Palin aides say the governor has been hard at work since her return from the campaign and has not spent an inordinate amount of time looking at Russia.
“The Governor has been diligently trying to balance Alaska’s budget in the wake of the lower gas costs,” said Palin aide Meg Stapleton. “But our interests as a state won’t stop Governor Palin from doing what she thinks is right for America too, and sometimes that means zooming in on our enemies and making sure their cultural celebrations don’t have hidden meaning or cruel intentions.”
This is the second time Palin has recently insinuated that Russia might plan an Alaskan invasion. In August she detained a local teenager for four hours because he had a flat-top haircut and looked like the bad guy in Rocky IV. Palin allegedly poured water on the boy’s head while demanding to know where Putin was going to dock his boats. The boy turned out to be a 16-year-old basketball player from South Anchorage High School.
Some Republican insiders believe that Palin is purposely keeping herself in the public eye through aggressive actions and rhetoric with hopes of appealing to a wider Republican base in 2012.
Analysts suggest that if Palin can hold onto the social conservatives that she rallied for John McCain, make inroads with moderate Republicans who are afraid of losing their guns and use a grassroots operation to build as many new churches as the Obama campaign opened field offices, she’ll have a chance to return to the national spotlight and compete for the Republican nomination in 2012.
“It’s not outside the realm of possibility for America to still be interested in Palin in four years,” said Republican strategist Terry A. Nelson. “She’ll only be 46, and everyone assumes she’ll still be lookin’ pretty fine.”