Little neutral Sweden has forced a massive climbdown from the Soviet Union. The ignominiously grounded ''Whiskey'' class Submarine 137 from Kaliningrad was refloated and, surrounded by Swedish warships, towed away for examination Nov. 2. (The submarine went aground nearly a week ago in a top-secret military area near Sweden's main, south coast naval base, Karlskrona.)
Just before this on direct orders from Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Moscow, the submarine's captain, Pyotr Gushin, finally left his stranded vessel for interrogation by the Swedish Navy about his mission deep into Swedish waters.
This was the second humiliation the Swedes had forced on the might of Moscow since the drama over the submarine started nearly a week ago. Earlier the Soviets had apologized to Sweden for the submarine's violation of its neutrality.
This was not enough to satisfy the angry Swedes. They insisted that the captain be interrogated before they would refloat 137 and return it to the Soviet Union.
Captain Gushin stayed put, however, and his dispirited crew has been forced to remain virtual prisoners in their stricken vessel since it went aground Oct. 27. The Swedish Navy staged a show of strength around the submarine with marine commandos scrambling over nearby rocks, loaded automatic rifles at the ready, and Viggen jets of the Swedish Air Force screaming overhead.
Gushin still refused to leave the sub, even though he was assured that his interrogation would be in the presence of two senior Soviet diplomats flown to Karlskrona from their embassy in Stockholm.
The captain was put in radio contact with the two diplomats, military attache Yuri Prosvirnen and second secretary Boris Grigoriev, but his answer was always a categoric ''nyet.''
Meanwhile in Stockholm Foreign Minister Ola Ullsten held talks with Soviet Ambassador Mikhail Jakovlev and pressured him into making contact with the Kremlin.
As a result, Mr. Gromyko is understood to have instructed the Soviet Navy to cut through red tape and order Gushin to cooperate.
As Swedes feared that a raging storm might refloat the submarine before they could do the job, orders finally reached the stubborn Gushin Nov. 2, and he left his vessel to board a Swedish torpedo boat where he was quizzed by Comdr. Karl Andersson.
As the boat sped away from the still-stranded submarine, the vessel's political officer posted guards armed with submachine guns.
Since it has now been revealed that the Soviet Union has also given the Swedish Navy permission to board the submarine to examine it, it was thought that the guards were there to stop any of the 56-man crew from defecting while their captain was away and the sub was being refloated by three tugs.
The Swedish Navy said the sub was towed off the rocks and closer to Karlskrona after it sent a mayday message because of the storm.
A Swedish Navy spokesman said the sub started to list badly in the storm and the Soviet crew feared that the batteries would leak, spewing out highly poisonous chlorine gas.
Foreign Minister Ullsten said in Stockholm: ''We haven't backed down in any way from the demands we have made in this affair.
''It was decided several days ago by the state prosecutor that the question of prosecution had been ruled out on a point of law.
''I am surprised that the Soviet apology over the affair came so quickly. As far as I know, it has never before been the case that a Soviet naval officer has allowed himself to be questioned in another country.
''But the whole situation is unique,'' said Ullsten.
He underlined that the Soviets had gone along with all the conditions Sweden had set up before the submarine could be returned to them. They had even, as he announced later, agreed to pay for the costs of salvaging the submarine.
When this is complete and Gushin has returned, the sub is likely to be towed out into international waters where a recovery vessel and two Soviet destroyers have been waiting for it since Oct. 28.
There was quiet jubiliation in the Swedish capital over the humiliation forced on ''the bear next door,'' and the Swedish Navy was already reporting a steady rise in recruitment as a result of its new advertising campaign based on the slogan, ''Whiskey on the rocks - it's something we don't want.''
Near gale-force winds raged in the Karlskrona archipelago. Appropriately enough, the storm came from the west.