Saying that the Clinton administration will not "rest on its laurels," Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher listed international trade and European security as top priorities for American foreign policy in the year ahead.
In a speech to a capacity crowd at the Institute of Politics Friday, Christopher asserted that "only the United States has the vision and capacity to consolidate the gains that have been made."
Christopher said that advancing open global trade will be at the top of the agenda.
"Economic strength at home and abroad are interrelated," Christopher said.
He also cited the need for a revitalized European security system. Christopher rejected the idea that the region is any less important to America's security due to the end of the Cold War.
"NATO remains the anchor of the American commitment to Europe," Christopher said.
He expressed continuing support for proposals that will expand NATO to involve Eastern European nations and Russia.
Though Christopher chided the Russian government for its "excessive use of force" in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, he gave no indication that the U.S. was reconsidering either its support for Russia's involvement in NATO or the economic aid it provides.
Other areas that Christopher pointed to as central for the coming year were the ongoing Middle East peace process, checking the spread of weapons of mass destruction and fighting international crime.
The American military, Christopher said, will be important to achieving many of these goals. He said "the president is determined that the U.S. military will remain the most powerful nation in the world."
Christopher, who according to news agency reports offered his resignation to Clinton last week, defended the administration's foreign policy record. He cited the nuclear agreements with North Korea and with several former Soviet republics as achievements that "made every American safer."
Christopher also noted that without U.S. leadership, "Iraq might once again be in Kuwait."
In reference to last year's population summit in Egypt, Christopher said that U.S. involvement at the conference "had restored American leadership in the critical issue of population control."
After the speech, Christopher took several questions from the audience. Asked whether the overseas activities of former President Jimmy Carter were appropriate, Christopher said such missions should be judged by the results.
Christopher, who was deputy secretary of state under Carter, said his former boss's results were "impressive."