IT TURNS OUT that the Soviet submarine that ran aground near Sweden's major naval base, miles inside Swedish territorial waters in a restricted military zone off the Baltic Sea, was carrying nuclear weapons. This was established by measurements of radiation escaping from the errant sub, an old but still serviceable model with torpedo bays. The Swedes made this alarming information public in the report they issued as they freed the sub. The Kremlin's refusal to clarify Swedish inquiries into the matter implies, an official announcement said, "that the Soviet government has been unable to deny the presence of nuclear weapons on board the submarine."

So the Swedes have now certified that Moscow is a nuclear sneak. It is a useful demonstration in more ways than one. It shows, first of all, how easy it is for the Soviets to be hypocrites. They have been running around northern Europe for some years suggesting the establishment of a Nordic nuclear-free zone, whatever that might mean. This is in addition to their traditional professions of respect for other nations' territorial sanctity. Not only have they been caught flagrantly violating another country's--a nearby, friendly, neutral country's--sovereignty. They have been caught making a nuclear penetration into the non-nuclear country that is in the heart of the region they wish formally to de-nuclearize.

Can Americans be allowed a passing snort of satisfaction at seeing the Soviet Union embarrassed in this fashion? The United States is continually being taxed in Europe, and perhaps never more than now, for its nuclear ways. The common implication, and sometimes the direct charge, is always that the United States is somehow foisting its nuclear weapons upon the alliance strictly for (unsavory) reasons of its own. In fact, it has yet to be shown that the United States has ever deployed nuclear weapons in Europe other than on terms mutually agreed on with its allies. The current debate over theater nuclear forces is a debate precisely about those terms. It is a convenient moment for European public opinion to be instructed in the ways of the other side.