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Superpower football; US-Soviet relations harden

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Some kind of crisis seems to lie ahead in Soviet-American relations. One cannot survey the situation without awe. We have been warned so often of the danger - the public is more interested in football. ''The world's stockpile of nuclear weapons represents an explosive force over 5,000 times greater than all the munitions used in World War II.'' That is the summary of a new study. So what; is there anything new in it? Why yes, it appears there is.

Observers note the comment by Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in Moscow in the exchange with President Reagan over the Russian shooting down of an unarmed Korean passenger plane. Andropov said, ''Even if someone had any illusions about the possible evolution for the better in the policy of the present US administration, the latest developments have finally dispelled them.''

What does he mean? Andropov seems to be saying to his colleagues and subordinates that the time of debate with the US is now over. That's the interpretation put on it by Marshall D. Shulman of Columbia University, a recognized authority on the Soviet Union. On the NBC ''Meet the Press'' broadcast this week he said the Russian leader seemed to be saying that illusions about better relations with the US are useless; that things are not going to improve. Andropov is saying that he has given up dealing with the Reagan administration.

The instant reaction, I think, is that it is not our fault. But that is not the point in the present confrontation. The world is hurrying to its crisis over the proposed deployment of American medium-range missiles in Europe beginning this winter, including US cruise and Pershing II nuclear missiles. America is supplying them partly to reassure Western allies, some of whose leaders feared that we would back out of a showdown if Russia proved obdurate. Russia has gone ahead with its own missile build-up and the test lies just ahead. A monster antimissile rally is being prepared in West Germany for the week beginning Oct. 15. A month later the West German parliament votes on the matter.


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